Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo With the rise of industrial fishing off the coast of Congo, artisanal fishing crews have increasingly focused on shark fishing for a living in recent years.
There are reports that crews in the area fished sharks on canoes (narrow canoes) in the 1980s, but this phenomenon has steadily increased over the past 20 years, and activists have warned that this practice is becoming unsustainable.
Activists say that the rise of professional shark fishing is driven by many factors.
The construction of offshore oil infrastructure has reduced the area where artisanal crews can fish. The arrival of industrial trawlers means that competition for fish has become more intense. The continued demand for shark fins in parts of Asia can make shark fishing profitable.
Manual shark catchers go to the sea, throw their nets into the sea before sunset, and then use bait and blood to attract sharks at night.
On most days, hundreds of sharks were dumped on Songolo Beach in Pointe Noire fishing area and sold on the spot there. Many are hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks, silk sharks and mako sharks-all of which are endangered species.
Jean-Michel Dziengue, a Congolese activist at Bouée Couronne, an environmental NGO, says that a large part of the sharks caught are small or juvenile sharks.
“This trend has affected the entire fish stock. In the market, fish are getting smaller and smaller. This shows that people are fishing in the spawning area,” he said.
According to a 2017 survey by the Transport NGO, 95% (1,766,589 kg) of sharks caught in the Republic of Congo came from artisanal fishermen’s canoes—a third of its annual catch.
The country has caught dozens of different shark species, 7 of which are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to Dziengue, the increase in the number of canoes specializing in shark fishing in the Congo is mainly due to the rise of industrial fishing.
“First, due to offshore oil exploration, fishing areas have been reduced by two-thirds. Then, foreign industrial ships have increased in particular after 2005. In just a few years, they have jumped from 24 to more than 70 ships, even in spawning areas. Fishing began in restricted areas. Artisanal fishermen were slowly pushed to the corner,” he said.
According to Traffic, in a sea area where up to 30 permits should be issued to industrial ships, as many as 110 ships were sailing in 2018. According to the Congolese authorities, this number has dropped to about 80 ships.
Dziengue said the authorities lacked law enforcement measures to prevent industrial trawlers from overfishing. “The authorities have only one patrol boat on the entire coast,” he added.
According to the most recent Learn According to a report published by Current Biology, due to overfishing, one-third of the world’s sharks and rays are at risk of extinction, and the number of sharks and rays facing a “global extinction crisis” has doubled within ten years. Fan.
Senegal shark biologist Mika Samba Diop told Al Jazeera that sharks are beginning to disappear from the waters of Africa where they used to be.
“Sharks are the’gendarmen’ of the marine ecological balance. They have a long lifespan, but their reproductive power is weak. If they are fished intensively, they will cause serious damage,” he said.