Although rather undetected, but cases of shark fishing for a consumer markets are at an alarming rate, which also includes Bali. Bali Sharks Rescue Center was founded to change this. With a world record number of rescues already done, they are looking to continue the cause-and more.
Let’s talk about the statistics first. It is estimated that more than 8,000 tons of shark fins are gathered each year. Since the fins are considered the more valuable part, most fishermen only captured them, fin them and then throw the rest of the shark into the sea. And yes, the shark was usually still alive when they do the whole thing. Indonesia, sadly, is the country with the largest case of shark finning in the world, where in Bali alone there can be around 40-60 sharks captured for this purpose. This is considered normal, with the high rate of Asian tourists coming into the island every day, the demand also rises.
If you got the terrifying image by now, then it’s time we get to know the guys that are more than ready to fight this situation. Founded in 2011, Bali Sharks Rescue Center took on the challenge of educating nearshore fishing communities by offering alternative solutions to killing by catch. “Since then, we have saved more than 260 sharks, which is a world record,” claimed founder Paul Friese. Most of Paul and his team’s strategies evolves around intercepting sharks doomed for consumer markets, and then relocated into Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Rescues include but are not limited to sharks that have been saved from netting, long lines, fishing boats and fish markets, but even to as far as restaurants, fish tanks, and bar aquariums. “Gladly, this rescue method (rehab, transfer, and release protocols) achieved survival rates as high as 90%,” Paul explained furthermore, “as opposed to the aquarium trade with a mortality rate above 50%.”
“Rescues include but are not limited to sharks that have been saved from netting, long lines, fishing boats and fish markets, but even to as far as restaurants, fish tanks, and even bar aquariums.
From their 260+ rescues, 65 have been transferred to the Gili isles of Lombok where they have reversed marine trophic cascade, and the recolonized areas also created a shark friendly dive zone. More recently, BSRC released ten sharks at the newly appointed Nusa Penida MPA. It’s also great to know that many of the fisher- men that used to kill sharks in the past are now helping BSRC to save them. Of course the inde- pendent organization also helped with with educating and training them, including giving alterna- tives to venture into eco-tourism.
At the moment, Paul and BSRC are moving towards new and probably darker grounds. The center have been instrumen- tal in exposing IUU (illegal, unre- ported and unregulated) fishing practices that as it turns out, have an elaborate web of the shark fin trade that are more than just fishing and finning. There is also issues of human trafficking and slavery, money laundering and of course, illegal wildlife trade.
It’s a noble cause that needs recognition and support—some- thing that we at least can give to Paul and his super rescuers.