Lebanese fishermen cash in big bucks on shark fishing

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At a fishery in Lebanon’s coastal city of Tripoli, shark pup’s meat is in demand.

The baby sharks are brought to Hajj Salim Anous and Sons public fishery where they are hosed down with water, then suspended at the shop front, gutted and cleaned before they are carved up for customers.

The often unaffordable price of fish for many in Tripoli has led to a rise in the fishing of shark pups.

The absence of specific fishing regulations has made the growing business even more possible and profitable for the local fishermen.

The shark pup meat isn’t expensive, but selling for 15,000-20,000 Lebanese Pounds per kilogram (10-13 U.S dollars), fishermen say the quantities sold are enough to make a profit.

In comparison, other types of fish like Sea Bass or Red Mullet, favorite’s in Lebanese kitchens, are sold for about 75,000 Lebanese Pounds (50 U.S dollars) per kilogram.

“It’s not expensive, it’s of a regular price, normal. It is used mainly for a specific type of cooking, it’s not cooked in everything, and it’s mainly used in fish ‘kebbeh’, because you get fillets from it without bones. But it is not expensive, its price goes up to 15,000 or 20,000 Liras maximum,” said Salim Ahmed Arnous, Secretary of the Fishermen’s Syndicate.

Kebbeh is a popular Lebanese dish, usually made with minced meat and bulgur wheat, but with fish being one of the traditional food ingredients in coastal cities, fish ‘kebbeh’ is a Tripoli favorite. The availability of the cheap shark pup meat is welcomed by locals.

“It is in demand, the fish market can sell up to 100 kilograms a day, but you can’t sell this quantity everyday, there will be like four or five days between every 100 kilograms that we get”, Arnous added.

Tripoli’s coast sees a variety of different sharks, as fisherman Hamez al-Zaini explains.

“There are more than 30 kinds of shark, we have here blue shark and it is permitted to fish them but they are rare here. You can find them weighing 25 or 30 kilos and they are not as big as you would imagine. There are others that are 100 or 120 kilos but they are ferocious,” said al-Zaini.

Laws in Lebanon restrict methods of fishing in the country; the use of dynamite for example is prohibited when fishing.

Fishing locations are also monitored with some marine reserves being checked regularly to make sure no fishing activity is taking place.

But there isn’t a specific law in the country when it comes to the types of fish that can be caught, and until such a law exist, shark pups are there to be snapped up.