CONSERVATIONISTS are up in arms over the fishing of protected species of shark in the waters around the island, with certain companies offering to take groups of tourists out onto the waters to partake in this activity.

“Most of these sharks are nursing and basking sharks and they have no teeth, they are not carnivorous and they are near extinction,” said Michalis Papacharidemou, head of Nireas Marine Research.

The cost of partaking in this activity can start at around €1,000 according to some of the websites of companies offering it.

According to Papacharidemou, all of this started a few years ago and could partly be due to the fact that most people think “sharks are going to eat us”.

“Cypriots have to understand that if the chain breaks down the whole ecosystem breaks down,” he added, describing the practice as “murder” and not as fishing.

Papacharidemou said they had sent letters to the Fisheries Department but had got no response. 

“Authorities must realise that it’s not good towards the environment,” he added.

Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou relayed a similar experience saying he had sent a letter to the Agriculture Minister but had not received a reply on the issue.

Theopemptou said that a ‘catch and release’ policy exists but it was doubtful whether it was actually implemented, saying that the animal is tormented by the process of getting it onto the boat in the first place anyway.

“This is very worrying to me… it gives off the feeling that we’re completely out of control,” he added.

An official at the Fisheries Department, who preferred not to be named, could only clarify that an amateur fishing licence forbids the fishing of any sharks and especially those that are protected.

Director of Napa Sea Cruises in Larnaca, which offers shark fishing, Andreas Panayiotou confirmed they do offer these deals to tourists, however along with the opportunity to fish different types of fish too.

“Everyone does it, we’re not the only ones… it’s not forbidden if you’ve got your licences,” he said, adding that if they don’t have the right the police should come and stop them.

Questioned as to whether they release whatever is caught he said that “some of them” are. He later confirmed however that sharks are thrown back, as they cannot be eaten.

Pictures on Facebook reportedly taken on excursions on a Napa Cruises boat show a woman holding the mouth of what looks like a bluntnose sixgill shark open with a rope, with what also looks like a baby in front of it. The species are near threatened and are not known to have eaten any humans. Another photo shows several dead sharks, hanging upsidedown from their fins.

A more disturbing video was also released recently by a group of Cypriots who had caught a shark and then filmed themselves hammering it to death.

Other companies offering shark fishing on the island are Argonaftis Tours and Raptor Excursions.

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