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Seychelles Bans Foreign-Owned Vessels from Shark Finning

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Seychelles -- The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), in a ban that took effect on Monday, has told 275 foreign vessels operating in the island's waters that they are no longer allowed to fin sharks. "Shark-finning ... threatens many shark stocks, the stability of marine ecosystems, sustainable traditional fisheries, food security, dive and eco-tourism and socio-economically important recreational fisheries," SFA said in a press statement.

Finning is the wasteful and often cruel practice of slicing off fins from sharks then dumping the rest of the shark, often still alive, back into the sea. The finned sharks sink to the bottom where they bleed to death or are attacked by other predators. The fins are highly prized by gourmets in many parts of east Asia, particularly southern China, and attract high prices. Shark fishing, where the whole shark is brought back to shore along with the fins, is still allowed and is not covered by the ban.

The SFA ban only applied to foreign-owned vessels, it said, but would later be extended to Seychellois-owned fishing boats once the government finalised the National Plan of Action on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks). The environment ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Conservation Union (IUCN) are currently working on the action plan, which would ensure sharks are fished in a manner that protects stocks for future generations, the statement added.

Foreign vessels were targeted because "the vast majority of sharks taken in Seychelles' waters are caught either unintentionally as by-catch or intentionally as a targeted species by large fleets of foreign industrial purse seiners, longliners and other vessels."

The European Union, which has a large tuna fishing fleet of some 40 vessels based in Seychelles, has since 2003 banned shark finning in European waters and on all EU-registered vessels wherever they are in the world. According to the SFA, any operator and master of any vessel convicted of an offence under the regulations will be liable to a fine of 500,000 rupees (100,000 dollars, 84,000 euros) each. In addition, the island's courts can also order the seizure of all fish caught and any fishing gear used in violating the ban.

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