The fishermen argue that they are so poor that they cannot stop fishing yet if they continue they will be forced to stop with nothing left and the ecological and sociological consequences will be enormous and devastating.

Demand for shark fin in China, where the meat is considered a delicacy, and for sea cucumbers, which are believed to be an aphrodisiac, have become major sources of income in Madagascar, which exports up to 20 tonnes of shark fins every year. A kilogram can fetch as much as 140,000 ariary ($56) on local markets, and up to $1,000 in China.

Alibaba seafoods, the company owned by Yahoo is one of the leading corporations responsible for diminishing shark populations.

"It's a strange world, where an internet company like Yahoo is responsible for the destruction of the world's shark populations," said Captain Paul Watson.

Madagascar has very little enforcement.

"The laws regarding the exploitation of marine resources are not implemented here in Madagascar," said Man Wai Rabenevanana, director of the Institute of Marine Science in Toliara. "The state doesn't invest enough in managing marine resources and capacity building to allow them to manage resources effectively."

Madagascar has a long way to go in protecting its marine resources. "It is very difficult to stop fishermen from catching shark and collecting sea cucumbers," said Rabenevanana. "These fishermen are poor and the attraction of fishing for sharks and sea cucumbers is huge. If we truly want to protect our resources we must address the market. We must do more to discourage the Chinese from eating shark fin soup; perhaps we can even find an alternative."

The decline of the primary predator could unbalance the entire marine food chain. Studies in the Caribbean have shown that too few sharks mean other carnivorous species increase and eat too many other useful fish, such as those keeping algae on the coral in check, which can eventually endanger the entire reef ecosystem.

"The disappearance of sharks would have devastating impacts on marine habitats and the local communities that depend on these," Frances Humber, a marine biologist studying shark populations in southern and western Madagascar with the British conservation organisation, Blue Ventures, told IRIN.

"A collapse in the shark fishing industry could threaten the economic stability of the region, and would mean the loss of livelihoods for thousands of fisherman."

Clarisse, a sea cucumber and octopus supplier in Belavenoke said: "Life is getting harder all the time here, because there is no way of earning money except from fishing. It is only the sea that gives us money, but the fish are fewer and fewer, and I am worried about this."

But not it seems, so worried as to do anything about it.

Source: IRIN
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