By Peter Stevenson
ILLEGAL shark-fishing off the coast of Cyprus by companies which are advertising it as a tourist attraction has been condemned by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Nireas Marine Research.
“In the summer of 2012, photographs advertising illegal shark-fishing as a tourist activity did the rounds on the Internet and in the media, enraging marine life lovers in Cyprus and abroad,” Nireas said in a written statement.
The agriculture ministry in its reply on the matter had said the Fisheries and Marine Research Department would investigate the case and that once evidence was collected that punishment would be handed down, according to the NGO.
“The investigation was never completed due to a lack of evidence according to the fisheries department,” Nireas said.
More than a year later, the NGO is continuing to report companies that are still advertising cruises with the only purpose of shark-fishing and has claimed it has substantial evidence to warrant an investigation.
“Some of them advertise their illegal activities on the internet, ignoring and defying laws and regulations, and seem not to be intimidated by any potential sanctions or penalties by the relevant authorities,” the statement said.
Nireas has singled out a company which has advertised ‘uniquely adventurous trips’ but avoids to mention that the trips are illegal.
On its Facebook page, Nireas added, the company has a photo album named ‘Shark Fishing’ that has photographs of the illegal activity dated between June 3 and August 26 of this year.
“Sharks are key to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem since they are dominant predators and maintain the balance of the food chain. The removal of these important species in our marine environment will worsen the state of marine population and stock even more,” the statement said.
Nireas demands an immediate investigation into the matter and wants to see offenders penalised.
“We want to see the immediate and decisive implementation of the law to put a definitive end to the illegal fishing of sharks, especially when they are targeted to make a profit,” Nireas said.
The cost of taking part in this activity starts from €1,000 according to some websites. A number of photos were also released on the internet and on Facebook. One shows a tourist pulling open the mouth of a basking shark with a rope while standing triumphantly over it. A video was also released showing tourists beating a shark to death with a hammer.