Vietnamese fishermen butcher endangered whale shark

By Le Hoang   May 16, 2019 | 03:30 am PT
A ‘giant fish’ weighing nearly a ton caught, butchered and sold by fishermen in Thanh Hoa was a rare whale shark.
The whale shark before it was butchered. Photo provided by a local at the scene. 

A whale shark before it was butchered in Thanh Hoa Province, May 5, 2019. Photo provided by a local at the scene

Agriculture officials in the north central Thanh Hoa Province identified the species on Wednesday, 10 days after its butchering was posted in pictures and video on Facebook.

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as "endangered."

The official announcement also specified that the fish can only be exploited for the purposes of conservation, scientific research and breeding attempts, so the fishermen’s actions were illegal, media reports said.

The animal is threatened by several human activities, including fishing and harvesting seafood, recreational activities, and oil and gas drilling, according to IUCN.

Nguyen Duc Cuong of Thanh Hoa's agriculture department said they will work with local authorities to determine responsibilities of the individuals involved under Vietnamese laws.

On the afternoon of May 5, local media reported local fishers at Sam Son beach in the province butchered a giant fish and sold its meat in the market. Pictures and a video were posted on Facebook.

The post was widely shared and heavily criticized by netizens, with many saying the species was on the endangered list and needed to be protected.

With a long coastline that runs 3,260 km (2,025) miles, Vietnam is globally famous for fresh seafood. But overexploitation of seafood resources of all ages and sizes was quite common across almost all sea areas in the country, said Le Tran Nguyen Hung, head of the directorate’s Department of Aquatic Resources Conservation and Development.

Hung said from 2021 onwards, Vietnam wants to ban all fishing activities using nets for a month a year across the country, and expand it to two to three months from 2025.

Hung said the ban will be imposed for at least 10 years to give time for the marine resources to recover.

According to the Maritime Law that took effect this year, those violating regulations on prohibited fishing methods will be fined between VND1-2 billion (43,150-86,300) and can even face criminal charges.

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