Fisherman backs down over tope-finning
A Lowestoft fish dealer has abandoned plans to fish British tope in order to sell shark fins to restaurateurs in Hong Kong and China.
Trevor Page, who runs WET Mullender, made national headlines in the summer when he announced his plan to fish some 300 tope a week in British waters. At the time he defended his position by claiming that there were “a lot” of tope on which to draw.
But he clearly thought again when the force of reaction to his plans became clear. Divers, sport anglers, conservation groups and others made their views plain, either directly to WET Mullender or by contacting influential individuals or groups.
Ali Hood, Director of Conservation at the Shark Trust, wrote an open letter to Ben Bradshaw, Marine and Fisheries Minister, saying: “EU vessels currently supply in the region of 27% of the fins entering Hong Kong markets, a shocking statistic, but one that to date UK vessels have made little or no contribution to.
“It would be a lamentable step backwards if a UK company were to encourage this abhorrent trade, marketing the fins of an already vulnerable species.”
And Bite-Back, whose campaigns have achieved the withdrawal of threatened marine species foods from supermarkets and chain eateries, received some 150 emails asking it to approach Trevor Page.
“I managed to explain that, even if there are fair numbers of tope now, fishing at the rate he was proposing would certainly be unsustainable,” Bite-Back’s Campaign Director, Graham Buckingham, told Divernet.
“I said it would be like taking a small town and wiping out inhabitants a street at a time. The town would end up empty. We thank WET Mullender for making the educated choice to reverse its decision.”
Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) are, like many sharks, slow-growing and therefore vulnerable to fishing at unsustainable rates. They can produce up to 50 pups a year, but most do not survive.
Female tope do not reach sexual maturity until they are 13 to 15 years old. Males become fully grown between 12 and 17.