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VICTORIA, Seychelles -- Members of the local tourism trade have weighed in on the shark fishing issue after tourists on a reef diving holiday came across the remains of 12 drowned sharks.
The dead Grey Reef sharks were found hooked on a 30m section of a 200m shark-line, set in a prime diving area off Petite Soeur, by tourist divers from the King Bambo live-aboard charter boat.
"I think we need to ban this type of fishing," said King Bambo operator Charles Savy, who photographed the slaughtered sharks.
"We are trying to sell a natural environment and yet we are destroying what people are coming to Seychelles for," he said.
"We are hoping to change this," he told Seychelles Nation, after delivering copies of the pictures of the dead sharks to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA).
A copy of the pictures was also sent to local travel company Creole Travel Services.
"The pictures we saw were very bad," said a spokesperson for the company.
He said that Seychelles is marketed on its pristine environment and that such discoveries contradict this message.
"(Tourists) come to Seychelles to see nature at its best and we market Seychelles on its fauna and flora. This makes it look as if we don’t care about the environment," he said, adding, "Tourists don’t want to see dead sharks."
According to Mr Savy the price being paid for shark fins has gone up, driving up the number of sharks being caught and meaning that the problem is now being experienced on the inner and outer islands and is encroaching on tourist diving sites.
Mr Savy said that the number of sharks in Seychelles is diminishing rapidly and that he believes current fishing levels are unsustainable.
Shark fishing by foreign vessels is currently regulated by the SFA, which, since earlier this year, has forced foreign boats to land the whole shark, not just the fins.
However, Mr Savy said that he would like the rules to be tightened to ban fishing specifically for shark.
Work is currently underway on a National Action Plan for Management of Shark Fisheries, with a meeting of stakeholders scheduled for next week.
The SFA’s Riaz Ameruddy said that the majority of local fishermen do not catch many sharks, but that there is a group of boats which target the shark fin market.
"I think this is the group we need to look at," said Mr Ameruddy, adding that he expects tourism concerns to be taken onboard during the drafting of the plan, which is set to be completed by mid-August.