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Tempest in a longtail

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: I could feel the Sea Sheperd weekend warrior rising up in me, ready for battle, after reading about the “Yamu Night Fishing Game.”

As a sunny-weather marine conservationist, I have no issues with sport fishing competitions. However, I suffered a knee-jerk reaction to seeing “sharks and rays” listed as a category for the Yamu fishing tournament.

Glimpses of proud fishermen standing next to the podium with piles of shark carcasses flashed before my eyes, like images from Jaws.

Most shark species in Thai waters are not protected at all, and only a handful have recently been added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Appendix Two.

The value of a shark in the water is exponentially higher in Phuket than it is on a dinner table or processed as fish oil. The money sharks generate from dive tourists goes not only to dive shops, but to mid and upper-range accommodations, restaurants, airlines and many other players in the tourism industry.

So why allow a local fishing tournament to encourage shark killing?

Every shark in the sea is important as their numbers continue to spiral downward in a trend which will inevitably lead to a significant change in the balance of the ocean ecosystem and have a detrimental impact on the dive industry.

I decided to go to Yamu with my camera, document the sharks these five-man teams in their long-tail boats would catch using traditional fishing methods, and start a Facebook campaign.

Then, I took a breath. I let the rage fade. The red cleared from my eyes like dolphin blood eventually does from the cove.

These fishermen, celebrating a traditional way of life which includes consuming a wide range of marine creatures, are not the problem.

Shark processing plants such as the one uncovered by true marine conservation activists in China’s Zhejiang Province are the problem. They process over 600 whale sharks a year. These establishments, along with local trawlers raping the Andaman Sea and mega trawlers like Annelies Ilena that are sweeping the entire world clean, are causing damage at a level we can’t fully appreciate.

What the Yamu fishermen are doing is celebrating sustainable fishing practices.

With no intention of creating Facebook propaganda, I took the long drive up to Yamu Pier. Two hours of waiting from noon to 2pm yielded no sharks, only a few boats with paltry catches. Nothing to write the Sheperds – or cause an online scandal – about.

— Alex Stone

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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