Divya Karnad is a wildlife biologist in India focusing on marine issues. She began her career working with olive ridley sea turtles, studying hatchling responses to beach lighting and temperature-dependent sex determination. Lately, she has been focusing on marine fisheries issues on both coasts of India, including shark fishing and the fin trade. She met WhySharksMatter at the International Marine Conservation Congress, and agreed to write a guest post for Southern Fried Science.
A soupy end to Indian Sharks
Thomas and Arulsingh, fishermen who hail from Kanyakumari, hauled up their nets and fishing lines on a beach in southern India. The catch was special and I was privileged, as an outsider, to be invited to watch as this enormous fish was sliced, its fin, the most valuable part, handled with extreme care. The shark fin, I was told, would fetch a lot of money, despite the fact that it was not a hammerhead, which fetches the best price. Nevertheless, the fishermen revealed, there were several more where this one came from, and they could be caught easily using specialized hooks and lines. Altogether estimated to host about 70 species of shark, 18, including two species of hammerheads, spadenose, requiem and milk sharks, are often landed for fins or meat from Indian waters. Different parts of the Indian coast have different species compositions of sharks, with the northwest reporting large proportions of spadenose sharks, hammerheads along the south west coast, and requiem, hammerheads and milk sharks along the east coast. Sharks are usually brought to shore before finning and the flesh is consumed locally while the fins are exported to South-east Asian markets.