Indonesia Restricts Catching of Sharks and Manta Rays

antara newsThe Indonesian government is going to restrict the catching of sharks and manta rays, creatures which are currently listed in Appendix II: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), by issuing a Regulation of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

"This stems from our concern for the approximately 73 million sharks which are lost worldwide each year. So we see the importance of protecting them," said Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Sharif C Sutardjo, after opening a national symposium about shark protection in Jakarta, on Tuesday.

According to Toni Ruchimat, Director of Conservation of Areas and Fish Species at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), the government has been given 18 months to prepare protection regulations on sharks and manta rays, counting from the time when four shark species and one species of manta ray were listed in Appendix II of CITES.

"Now we have begun doing a public consultation, listening to public opinions, in order to protect those four shark types. God willing, in eighteen months time there will already be (such a regulation)," he said.

Restricting the regulations on the catching of those sharks and manta, according to Sharif, is important because the existence of those two types of marine life are very important for maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem.

Moreover, the numbers of those two fish species have declined more than 75 percent. In fact, for certain species, their numbers have declined 90 percent or more over the past fifty years.

He explained that up to now the central government has not regulated the catching of sharks or manta rays, but will soon prepare regulations to reduce hunting activity which threatens the populations of those two types of fish. However, he added, regional governments can begin applying regulations to protect sharks and manta rays.

"Island chain areas where sharks migrate need to issue Regional Regulations to protect these fish. What has been done by the Regional Government of Raja Ampat (by issuing a Regional Regulation forbidding the catching of sharks and manta rays), is a good example," said Sharif.

Sudirman Saad, Director General of the MMAF's Marine and Coastal Areas and Small Islands (KP3K), said that based on the research there are more than 200 species of sharks and rays in Indonesian waters.

These two species are a source of revenue for some fishermen, ever since the demand for shark fins and gills increased, making the exploitation level of sharks in Indonesia the highest in Southeast Asia. "This was triggered by the high market price of shark fins. Another issue has to do with the catching of tuna and sharks as a by-catch of tuna," he said.

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