Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development raised the ire with conservationists around the world when Minister Andrés Valencia released the 2020 fishing quotas in Resolution 350 of 2019. According to the four-page document, the country authorizes artisanal fishing of several shark species, among them the Pacific ocean’s threshers (Alopias pelagicus, Alopias supercilliosus and Sphyrna corona), hunted for their elongated upper lobes and caudial fins.
In the 2020 fishing quota, the Colombian government emphasized that the 125 tons of Caribbean sharks and 350 tonnes of Pacific sharks has remained unchanged since 2015. The resolution does, however, include in the artisanal quota of the Caribbean’s silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) 5.2 tons of fins.
The mere mention of “fins” and “hunt” in the same document set off the alarm bells with environmentalists and forced the Minister to clarify the values assigned solely to its fin quota. According to Valencia, many of the fins that are sold on the black market are the result of bycatch fishing methods, in which non-target species are caught in nets, therefore the need to create a specific quota. The resolution states that all sharks in the 475-ton quota must “arrive in ports with their fins.”
But, for environmentalists, the separate quota is a dangerous pretext for many artisanal fishermen to amplify their bycatch to commercialize fins.
The Minister emphasized that Colombia’s fisheries depend on 65,000 artisanal fishermen. While industrial shark hunting is banned and considered a criminal offense, many vulnerable communities depend on shark meat for sustenance. With the fall-out of the #NoalaleteoenColombia social media campaign, Colombia’s Minister of Environment Ricardo Lozano backed Resolution 350 as a means of regulating shark fishing and keeping tabs on which species are being hunted and for what purpose. Colombian waters are home to 140 shark species, of which five are considered endangered.
“This Government is not increasing the shark fishing quota. What we seek is to increase monitoring actions and maintain the National Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, Rays and Chimeras, set since 2011,” said Lozano in a press conference.
Several conservation organizations were quick to question the volumes associated with the term “artisanal” among them MarViva, which works for the sustainable use of maritime resources. In a statement rejecting the decision of the Ministry of Agriculture, the foundation warns that “this resolution encourages fishing of endangered species of sharks and rays; species considered of high importance for the health of marine ecosystems and therefore for the food security of coastal communities.”
The resolution also permits the harvest of 22 million individual aquarium fish, including freshwater rays and significant amounts of other commercial seafood including tuna, crabs, bonefish, spiny lobster, and shrimp. The Ministries of Agriculture and Environment said they would issue another clarification in upcoming weeks to calm the public’s fears over the ghastly practice of shark finning.