Manta Trade Bust, Ripple Effect

Monday November 10, 2014
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Confiscated sawfish and whale shark fins.

 

Twice in a one-week on the Indonesia island of Bali, the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), supported by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and local police officers have tracked down and arrested wildlife traders trafficking protected marine species.

Ms. Msl was arrested on Friday 31 October in the tourist District of Kuta. She was operating a sea products store which was illegally displaying dried whale shark fins, critically endangered sawfish and offering for sale 15 kilos of sea turtle meat.

On Friday 7 November, just seven days later, in the West coast town of Pengambengan a shark fin trader was arrested, after a tip off from a previous arrest in Surabaya, Java. Suhairi, a 60-year-old shark fin trader was apprehended with 103 kilos of large manta gill plates and 25 kilos of manta cartilage. This is the largest bust of manta gill plates to date in Indonesia, since enforcement efforts started in August by MMAF with the support of WCS.

Fisheries Officer poses with the confiscated manta gill plates. 

According to Suhairi the gills were collected over the last few months from Lombok and across Nusa Tenggara.

Fisheries Officer poses with the confiscated manta gill plates. 

“The high seasons for catching the manta rays is from July to October each year. I couldn’t resist buying the manta gills after I was offered a rate of US$ 65.00 per kilo for a product that normally sells for twice that”. The declining local prices are thought to be a consequence of the increased local enforcement efforts by MMAF, which are driving down demand from traders. Now Suhairi could face a maximum prison sentence of 6 years and a fine of USD 125,000.

 

Suhairi the shark and manta trader in his warehouse, Negara, Bali, Indonesia

 

The gill plates are sold to China as a pseudo-medicinal health tonic to treat a number of illnesses from chicken pox to measles. This is a recent trend, since the late 1980s, and is not formally part of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The cartilage is used alongside shark cartilage in health products across the world to elevate joint pain, but to this day there is still no scientific evidence to support the medical properties of either gill plates or shark cartilage. Recently in Guangzhou, China, dry seafood traders say they are finding it harder to source manta ray products and demand seems to be dropping according to the NGO WildAid. 

  

 

Trader in Guangzhou, China

 

 This collaboration between MMAF and WCS on theses ocean species focused arrests are part of an ongoing effort to investigate the illegal trade networks and take action against key manta ray traders. Indonesia declared manta rays as a protected species in February 2014, creating the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary. 

As the Indonesian Government under the new leadership of President Joko Widodo and the newly appointed Fisheries Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti comes down hard on wildlife traders the ripple affect is starting to be felt across the world.

Watch the video from Aljiazeera

 

Paul Hilton
Photojournalist, ILCP member
Hong Kong +852 94160972
Indonesia +62 8139801257
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