Saving threshers

Shark fin traders are corrupting small communities across Indonesia. For the people of Alor, the insidious practice contrasts starkly with a heritage of deep ocean connection. What does the future hold?

Words by Beth Finney
Photography by Shawn Heinrichs

“The first time I saw a live thresher shark was in Nusa Penida, off Bali. We were filming oceanic sunfish and it just appeared. It was beautiful – iridescent silver skin, massive deep dark eyes and a tail that propelled it forward, beating a rhythm like a ribbon in water. It looked so innocent and gentle – there was nothing that indicated aggression. I was captivated by it.”

Shy and elusive, little is known about the behaviours and needs of the thresher shark compared to other pelagic species. Highly migratory, thresher sharks can be found in both tropical and temperate deep waters around the world. Despite their wary nature, they haven’t escaped the threats plaguing all shark species in today’s world. The commercial shark fin industry has become so adept at reaching even the most rural coastal communities, and as a result, their numbers are in steady decline. The thresher shark population of Indonesia, for example, has declined by 80.2% in the past 13 years.

finning thresher sharks
fishing thresher sharks
thresher shark pups
Photography by Shawn Heinrichs

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This feature appears in ISSUE 18: End of the line of Oceanographic Magazine

Issue Eighteen
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