Myanmar will write a conservation plan to conserve sharks and whiptail stingrays, which are endangered species, said U Khin Maung Maw, director general of the Fishery Department at the Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Ministry.
“A shark and whiptail stingray conservation scheme will help our country’s fishing industry develop sustainably,” he said at a national working committee meeting on conservation of sharks and whiptail stingrays in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.
Although catching sharks is banned in Myanmar, which has a long coast and many streams, lakes and rivers, some sharks are caught accidently. “Few fishermen target sharks, which are mostly being caught as by-catch,” said a department statement.
The committee will work with international organisations and local universities.
A Central Committee on Management of Natural Resources in Coastal Areas, led by the vice president, was also formed. “We will carry out conservation work to increase water resources and sustainable development of the country’s fishing industry,” said U Khin Maung Maw.
Fish populations are declining as large amounts of them are captured. To avert the consequences of this, more study and scientific research of fish at the ports are needed, the statement said, adding that international organisations will be encouraged to conduct studies of deep water and offshore species.
It is difficult to distinguish the species of sharks and whiptail stingrays that are caught in Myanmar because they are very similar to each other, so suitable taxonomy is required. Another challenge is that fishermen and merchants continue to catch and sell sharks although they know it is prohibited. An education programme is needed to disseminate knowledge, the statement said.
Although there is a law protecting sharks in Myanmar, it is not being properly enforced because of a lack of funds to appoint workers to patrol and inspect fishing boats at sea.
Barry Flaming of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the group is ready to help. Another major challenge is the dumping of plastic trash into the sea, which causes pollution, he added.