Conservation group Save Sharks Indonesia has said Indonesia is the largest supplier of shark fins in the international market, and this has led to an increase in shark fishing among local fishermen, which puts the species at risk of extinction due to overfishing.
"Currently, Indonesia is at the top of the 20 largest shark fishing countries in the world," Save Sharks Indonesia campaign director Riyanni Djangkaru said in a discussion on shark conservation in Semarang recently.
Green Peace Indonesia data show the country produces at least 486 tons of dried shark fins. Meanwhile, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says at least 1.1 million tons of shark products are traded globally every year, although shark is a species that faces high risk of extinction due to overfishing, coupled with their slow reproduction.
Riyanni said a jump in demand for shark fins and other products had triggered an increase in shark fishing and this was partly because of the absence of regulations on shark fishing in Indonesia. Growing baby shark sales in supermarkets aggravated the situation.
Riyanni said uncontrolled shark fishing would affect sea ecosystems: most sharks are apex predators, which means they control the populations of their prey animals. If there are no sharks, prey populations explode disproportionately. With rampant fishing for adult shark fins and baby shark meat, the population of the species often called the "sea doctor" is becoming seriously threatened.
Green Peace Indonesia representative Afif Saputra said Indonesian fishermen caught sharks only for the fins as they were among the most expensive seafood products. "Dried shark fins are selling at various prices, starting from Rp 1 million (S$100) to Rp 4 million per kilogram in Tanjung Aan, Lombok. The prices are much more expensive in the export market," he said.
Afif said all related stakeholders in Indonesia must take concrete measures to save sharks from extinction.
Save Sharks Indonesia says it has also targeted seafood product consumers in its conservation campaigns.
"It's not only the government, as the regulation maker, and the fishermen, as the product suppliers, that have become our [campaign] targets. Shark fin consumers have also become our targets because all this time, their roles as triggers for the overfishing of sharks have received less attention," said Riyanni.