Thai ecologist sounds alarm on declining shark numbers

A whale shark in Thailand, one type of shark in decline in the country.

A Thai ecologist is sounding the alarm on the decline in the number of sharks in the country’s waters.

The marine ecologist, Assistant Professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat, the deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, presented some worrying facts about the situation.

Dr Thon said that around 75 of the 87 shark species in Thai waters are endangered. Endangered sharks include the whale shark, leopard shark, hammerhead, and bull shark. Most of the shark species in the country’s territorial waters are listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), Bangkok Post reported.

Dr Thon cited a report from the Department of Fisheries saying that in 2003, sharks weighing a total of 14,409 tonnes were caught, but the figure had dropped by 90% to 1,424 in 2011. The latest records show that only 419 tonnes were caught in 2018. Globally, about one million sharks are caught each year, with 75% of them being caught purely for their fins in certain Asian cultures.

In Thailand, sharks are mainly bycatch from the coastal fishery. However, more than 75% of them still had their fins cut, which has led to campaigns encouraging people not to eat any foods cooked from shark fins. Asst Prof Thon said the Department of Fisheries has a five-year national plan of action (2020-24) for conserving and managing sharks, which follows advice from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

The plan includes keeping records of biological data, evaluating threats posed by fisheries and the environment, training fishery employees, and developing shark preservation networks. It is hoped that such measures will help to protect the shark population in Thailand and prevent further decline.

This news comes after it was reported last week that declining shark bites across the globe could reflect declining shark populations. Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program said…

“Generally speaking, the number of sharks in the world’s oceans has decreased, which may have contributed to recent lulls.

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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