Egypt group calls for end to shark hunting

CAIRO: An Egyptian environmental group is taking action against the sale of shark meat in the country’s supermarkets. The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) has started a media campaign to save sharks from slaughter in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

According to the campaign to end the sale of shark meat in the country’s supermarkets and grocery stores, Carrefour – the French international chain supermarket – sells baby sharks in their Maadi, Cairo, location. HEPCA says this is an “irresponsible act that endangers the wellbeing of their clientele and the future of our planet.”

The Hurghada-based organization has called on the Egyptian government to end the killing of sharks for commercial use and has demanded Cairo ban the exporting of shark meat abroad.

“We encourage the community to challenge those endangering us like Carrefour, who do not care for the health of the citizens of Egypt nor the natural and economic resources of this country,” the organization added.

The campaign, however, may fall on deaf ears for those already not a part of the environmental conservation community. The goal, said HEPCA’s Ahmed El Droubi, is to promote awareness “because Egyptians care about their health.”

He added that although Egyptians are not engaged in environmental action as much as he, or HEPCA, may like, the fact remains that through the campaign to end the selling of shark meat “the impact on the public health and its concerns are important” and can galvanize people to support the cause.

He said that at Carrefour, shark meat and fins are readily accessible, but people need to be aware of the health concerns related to killing and eating sharks.

As the ocean’s leading predator, sharks take in high concentrations of toxins into their bodies. HEPCA said that as much as “10,000 times that of their surrounding environment” can be taken in by sharks.

This is where it gets dangerous for consumers of shark meat, as sharks often retain these toxins such as Methyl Mercury.

The digestion of this toxic compound in humans are numerous, The Shark Safe Network reported. Humans can be born with neurological damage as a result of the mother being exposed to the toxic agent during pregnancy. In the United States, HEPCA and international organizations’ statistics say some 60,000 children are born with damage as a direct result of Methyl Mercury.

“Thousands of families each year are faced with the challenge of raising a child with severe neurological damage or disability, simply because the mother or father ingested shark meat,” the environmental organization added.

Unborn babies are not the group at risk from this toxin. Methyl Mercury is considered a carcinogen and the effects it can have on the body’s neural system are “irreversible.” According to the World Health Organization, this toxin can cause “coronary artery disease and cardiac arrest, as well as trigger autoimmune diseases and immune dysfunction.”

Methyl Mercury ingestion has also been documented to cause male infertility and spermatozoa mutation, in addition to instigating type II diabetes, said HEPCA.

HEPCA is one of the few Egyptian organizations working toward land and marine conservation. It was founded in 1992 by 12 members representing the diving community on the Red Sea. According to their website, the organization is “actively working towards the goal of protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Red Sea and Egypt.”

The organization also has a history of pressuring the government over shark killing. In 2006, the organization secured legislation that banned shark fining in Egyptian waters. They were honored as Shark Guardian for their efforts in 2006.

Now, they are faced with a similar dilemma as the likes of Carrefour continue to ignore Egyptian government rulings. “Their sale of sharks is an irresponsible act that endangers the well-being of their clientele and the future of our planet,” HEPCA said.

The group is calling on Egyptians and foreigners living in the country to put pressure on international companies who continue to trade in shark meat to end this practice. Already there are over 1,200 members of Facebook who have thrown in their support.

**to sign HEPCA’s petition, click here