Unaware of illegalities – Ethical responsibility of sea captains

“One would have thought that with the amount of time I have spent with fishermen over these last few years, I would have known the underground of the fishing world. Being underfed, underpaid and often abused is only the prelude into the underworld of the illegal Asian fishing industry,” says Dane, pastoral worker of Biblia Cape Town Harbour.

“Sharks are usually caught along with tuna and sold on the black market. The fin or full body (depending on the mass weight) of the shark will be kept, depending on the buyers’ demand.  However, in most cases the shark fins are high in demand because it is a delicacy in some Asian cuisine and a bowl of shark fin soup could easily cost up to $100 (USD).

An Indonesian fisherman explains: “Sometimes the captain will tell the crew that the fishing of sharks is not allowed, but if we catch a shark by chance and it is dead, we will cut the fin. However, sometimes we will cut the fin even if the shark is still alive because sharks are scarce and their fins are expensive.

“But Taiwanese boats are smart,” the Indonesian continues. “If the shark is small, the body will be thrown away after cutting the fins. Earlier there was no banning of fishing sharks; we would cut the fins and the money would be given to the captain.

“Nowadays the fins are collected in a chest and offloaded to another ship in the middle of the sea. So when we arrive ashore, the fins are already deposited with no trace whatsoever.”

Dane says, “Some of the fishermen I have spoken to have admitted to catching and finning sharks under the instruction of the captain. These young men, mostly in their early twenties and usually in the midst of their first time at sea, are unaware of the illegalities of their actions and simply regard it as part of their job.”


Contact Dane du Plessis