When doing my shark research study in Moorea (French Polynesia), I faced the problem of shark finning twice in 2 month. In a country where sharks are considered as divinities are listed as protected species and shark finning banned since April 2006, it’s revolting to see that this practice still occurs. In Moorea Island, sharks are a great tourism attraction that bring important incomes and are protective by the law. But shark finning seems to exist even with this protection.
Since 2008, I encountered 2 cases of sharks with dorsal fin removed. The first case was the 11 February 2008 on a juvenile sicklefin lemon shark (77 centimetres) found dead on a beach of Moorea. I wrote an article about it in the local newspaper (“La Dépêche de Tahiti”) to remind that this practice still exists and that shark finning is forbidden.
The second case was today (18 April 2008). I was diving and i saw an adulte blackfin reef shark with its dorsal fin totally removed. It was still alive and was swimming (see pictures below). The cut did not seem to be really recent because the wound seemed healed.
After the first case in February, I was almost convinced that it was an anecdotal or isolated case because a single dorsal fin removed on a 77 cm juvenile cannot be cost-effective. But when I see that adult sharks are also affected by this practice, it seems to face a bigger problem in French Polynesia. Is there a poaching? Nothing is sure… This two cases show sharks with only the dorsal fin removed and they keep their other fins, that could mean maybe that this sharks were fished and fishermen only cut the fin before releasing the shark in the water thinking that they could earn money from that fin… I don’t really know what to think about it at present, hoping we are not facing a poaching activity in French Polynesia.