Taiwan set to ban fishing of elusive megamouth sharks

At least six megamouths caught last month off Taiwan’s east coast

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Megamouth shark 

Megamouth shark  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Fisheries Agency of Taiwan is expected to announce a fishing ban on three shark species on Thursday (July 16) in a move hailed as a success for the country's conservation community.

The great white shark, basking shark, and megamouth shark are the three species set to benefit from the new restrictions, reported CNA, citing sources familiar with the matter. The ban will come into effect in 60 days.

Reporting when these creatures are caught has been compulsory since 2013. Years of assessment have led to the decision to impose an outright fishing ban, noted the Fisheries Agency.

The move comes amid revived calls to prohibit catching megamouth sharks, following reports of six of the rare sharks being caught off Taiwan's east coast near Hualien County last month. Taiwanese fishermen have long maintained the sharks are captured by drift nets as bycatch and that they are not specifically targeted, a claim rebutted by fishing ban advocates.

The ban will serve as a boost to the country's conservation efforts, after the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST, 台灣動物社會研究會) inked an agreement with fishermen over shark harvesting on Tuesday (July 14) timed with Shark Awareness Day.

According to the agreement, megamouth sharks caught this year, dead or alive, should be released right away, except when the carcasses are to be purchased for scientific research. The practice of placing scientific markings on live megamouth sharks or discarding dead ones back into the sea should be filmed, with relevant footage provided to EAST for educational or charity purposes.

Only 226 sightings have been made of the elusive deepwater sharks over the past 34 years, and 146 occurred in Taiwan, said Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏), executive director of EAST.