A PETITION to include Malapascua’s thresher sharks on a list of the world’s endangered species is being circulated.
Among the reasons to support it, the group behind the petition said, is that people depend on the sharks’ well-being for their livelihood, and that eating shark meat is harmful to humans.
“Di man ta magutman kung di ta mokaon og iho (We won’t starve even if we don’t eat shark meat),” said Regional Director Andres Bojos of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The BFAR joined the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), Greenpeace, Migo sa Iho, and the local governments of Daanbantayan town and Barangay Malapascua during yesterday’s launch of the #PHSayYes campaign.
They hope to gather more signatures on a petition to include thresher sharks in Appendix 2 of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Appendix 2, the group said in a presentation, lists species that are not necessarily threatened by extinction, but whose trade must be controlled to prevent such threats from developing.
In a press release, the group also pointed out that Monad Shoal, near Malapascua Island in northern Cebu, is the only place in the world where divers can see pelagic thresher sharks almost every day.
Malapascua Barangay Captain Rex Novabos said that these thresher sharks have made their island a major attraction for divers, who helped many local residents recover after the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.
“Unahon nato pag protect ang thresher sharks nga naghatag og panginabuhi sa mga divers, drivers, pumpboat operators, boatmen, tour operators and guides og waiters here in northern Cebu (Let us first protect thresher sharks who have provided a livelihood to so many divers, drivers, pumpboat operators, boatmen, tour operators, guides and waiters),” said Cases.
They signed the petition a week before the 17th Conference of Parties to CITES, which will open on Sept. 24 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Philippine Fisheries Code states that all CITES-listed species are automatically protected in the country, as provided in Section 102.
Last Sept. 5, the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) passed a resolution urging the inclusion of thresher sharks in CITES. PB Member Sun Shimura, who represents the fourth district where Malapascua belongs, drafted it.
Besides the economic arguments for protecting thresher sharks, there’s also a public health argument for prohibiting its consumption.
Eating sharks allows toxic heavy metals to accumulate in one’s body, said diver and Malapascua dive shop operator Gary Cases.
Cases heads Project Sharklink and Migo sa Iho, and is one of those who initiated the signing of a petition to put thresher sharks on the CITES list.
Sharks absorb heavy metals, like lead and mercury, through their skin and the smaller fishes that they eat, which in turn consume plankton and algae. The latter organism absorb these elements in polluted waters.
“Mao nang mahibuong ta, mogahi ang atay pero di moinom, ug mamatay (That’s why we’ve seen some mysterious cases where people who never drank suffered from liver diseases and died),” Cases said.