Powered by

Home Trending

Endangered Hammerhead Sharks Illegally Sold in Mumbai Fish Market

Disturbing images from Mumbai fish markets show the illegal sale of critically endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks. Despite protections under Indian law, inadequate enforcement and high demand for shark fins fuel this illicit trade

By Ground report
New Update
Endangered Hammerhead Sharks Illegally Sold in Mumbai Fish Market

Photo credit: @LicypriyaK/x

Listen to this article
0.75x 1x 1.5x
00:00 / 00:00

Disturbing images from a fish market in Mumbai have raised alarm about the illegal sale of critically endangered shark species in India. The photos, which were shared on social media by teenage climate activist Licypriya Kangujam, show the flattened hammerhead shapes of scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) openly displayed for sale.

The scalloped hammerhead is critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There has been a global decline of over 80% in the last 50 years due to excessive fishing from industrial longline operations and the shark fin trade.

Kangujam said, "Hammerhead #Sharks for sale in Mumbai Fish Market, Maharashtra. Scientific name: Scalloped #Hammerhead (#Sphyrna_lewini). Listed as CR by IUCN."

Hammerhead sharks are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, so the sale and consumption of them is prohibited under Indian law. However, inadequate monitoring and enforcement at fish landing sites allows the illicit trade to persist.

The Mangrove Foundation, under Maharashtra's state forest department, documented the hunting and finning of endangered shark species across major fish landing centers in a report. At the Satpati landing site in Palghar district, the fins were cut from at least eight threatened shark varieties before the remains were sold for meat.

"Satpati is famous for pomfret fishing using gillnets, but those nets catch many juvenile sharks as bycatch," said Dhanashree Bagade, the report's author and a marine biologist. "Locals were finning several species on the IUCN red list and drying those fins, potentially for illegal export."

The study identified 34 species of sharks, rays, and sawfish being sold across landing sites in Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri and other coastal areas of Maharashtra. This included 14 shark species, with juveniles of endangered hammerheads and blacktip sharks frequently spotted.

"The most alarming finding was that 58% of the total catch were juveniles who hadn't reached reproductive age," Bagade stated. "This excessive juvenile bycatch could devastate vulnerable shark populations struggling to rebound."

Shark fishing is legal in India, but catching the 10 protected shark species is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act. However, the Mangrove Foundation report and other investigations suggest this prohibition is widely flouted due to lack of species identification training for fishers and inadequate enforcement.

"This is a serious situation requiring immediate action to halt the shark fin trade and raise awareness among fishers about protecting endangered species and avoiding juvenile bycatch," said Rajendra Jadhav, Joint Commissioner of Maharashtra's fisheries department.

Despite a 2013 policy banning shark finning and fin exports being prohibited since 2015, the Mumbai seizure and other busts indicate an active illegal fin trade from Indian shores. A 2019 report by TRAFFIC estimated India catches an average of 67,000 tonnes of sharks annually, compared to the government's reported 20,000 tonnes that year.

Many marine conservationists argue that the Wildlife Protection Act's list ofprotected sharks is too narrow. It leaves numerous threatened species unprotected and overexploited. Only one shark variety (the whale shark) covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is legally protected in India.

"There's a clear need to expand protections to cover CITES-listed shark species threatened in our waters and improve enforcement through better species identification training and market monitoring," said E. Vivekanandan, a former shark researcher with India's Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

Conservationists warn that the open sale of critically endangered species like hammerheads could lead to extinction, with global shark populations crashing due to the lucrative fin trade supplying the highly valued shark fin soup markets.

Keep Reading

“We are made homeless”: Fishermen lose their livelihood and home due to Omkareshwar Floating Solar

Follow Ground Report for Environmental News from India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us at [email protected] and subscribe to our free newsletter

Don’t forget to check out our climate glossary; it helps in learning difficult environmental terms in simple language.