Shark lovers try to save Jaws from Trinidad’s bite

 

Associated Press

Conservationists say they have launched a shark-saving campaign in the Caribbean country of Trinidad & Tobago, trying to stop locals and tourists from eating a popular delicacy: deep-fried shark sandwiches.

Many have long considered “bake & shark” sandwiches to be an essential part of a visit to Trinidad’s popular Maracas beach, a white-sand strip lined with shacks serving fried juvenile shark and bread smothered in a variety of toppings such as mango chutney and tamarind sauce.

But the local Papa Bois Conservation group is now pushing for a ban on the catch and trade of the marine predators to help protect a fast-dwindling population. It started its campaign during Trinidad’s just-ended Carnival celebrations, when supporters rallied on the traffic-jammed road to Maracas carrying placards made in the shape of sharks with messages like “Save our sharks, save our oceans.”

Group director Marc de Verteuil acknowledged that the sandwiches are something “Trinidadians are very proud of; it is practically a national dish. But at the same time, most people simply don’t understand that sharks are in crisis.”

Researchers with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature say one-quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.

De Verteuil said overfishing in local waters has gotten so bad that much of the shark meat may now be imported. Shark fillets are also sold in supermarkets and upscale restaurants here, and environmentalists say the waters of the small twin-island country of 1.3 million people also play an outsized role in supplying shark fins for a soup popular in China.

The most recent data collected from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, a major global trade hub for shark fin, ranked Trinidad & Tobago as the biggest fin exporter to the Asian city. Much of the 730,000 pounds of shark fin exported from Trinidad to Hong Kong in 2011 were from creatures caught as by-catch by international fishing boats in the Atlantic. When the fleet of mostly Asian long-liners arrives in Trinidad’s waters with Atlantic-caught shark, they can land it at a Trinidad free zone and then export the fins to Hong Kong.

“If local consumption and exports can be reduced or prohibited, Trinidad has an opportunity to be part of the solution in protecting these endangered species,” Imogen Zethoven, director of Global Shark Conservation at Pew Charitable Trusts, said in an email from Washington.

Papa Bois says it plans to lobby the government to make the country’s waters a shark sanctuary, like the Bahamas did in 2011, and ban the landing of any shark products. It will also go to schools to teach youngsters that the top predators play a huge role in keeping oceans healthy and are not the insatiable human-killing machines portrayed in movies like Jaws.

But Tracy Whiskey, who works at Patsy’s Bake & Shark, a restaurant started by her mother nearly 40 years ago, said she thinks the call for people to stop eating shark sandwiches is encroaching on local culture.

“It’s unfair because people have been eating this and loving it for a long time,” she said by telephone from the restaurant. “Bake & shark is one of the main meals here.”

Read more Latin American & Caribbean Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A detail of the carving on one of the ancient temples at Palenque.

    Mexico

    At last, a soaring look at Palenque’s Mayan ruins

    From seat 7A, I look down to see miles of dense rain forest blanketing the ground below me. I’m 10,000 feet above the Mexican state of Chiapas, coming in for a landing at Palenque, where an ancient Mesoamerican city flourished for five centuries, until its Mayan inhabitants mysteriously abandoned it, leaving their temples, homes and palaces to be reclaimed by the encroaching forest, not to be rediscovered for nearly 900 years.

  •  
Beaches in Puerto Rico are a little cheaper with off-season deals later summer and fall.

    Travelwise

    It’s deal time in the Caribbean

    Summer is winding down, and autumn soon will be upon us, with kids back to school and people who take their vacations in summer back to work. In the Caribbean, that means good deals in the offing as the islands vie to attract travelers in the off-season.

  •  
A vendor serves a selection of pan-sauteed grasshoppers at the Mercado San Juan in Mexico City.

    Quick trips: Mexico

    The culinary magic of Mexico City

    How integral is food to Mexico City’s culture? My taxi driver from the airport offered me a plate of her chicken tinga tacos. From a covered platter she kept inside her cab. She didn’t try to sell them to me. She wanted to give them to me, to welcome me with a taste of her native Mexico City. And maybe to show off a little for the food writer.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK



  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category