Sandbar shark [Illustrative].
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/JEFF KUBINA)
At least four small sharks being sold by an Arab merchant in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter were confiscated by police on Wednesday.
Officers patrolling the area saw a suspicious man pulling a covered wooden cart, with what appeared to be a shark fin protruding from it, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“When they asked him to pull the cloth off, they saw a number of dead sharks in a box that he attempted to sell at the area market,” he said. “Sharks are an endangered species, and it is illegal to catch them.”
After being questioned, the suspect was arrested at the scene, and the sharks were confiscated, he added.
“Police asked him where he purchased them, and opened an investigation,” Rosenfeld said.
Dr. Avi Baranes, an adjunct researcher at the Hebrew University’s Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, said Israel was one of the first countries in the world to outlaw shark fishing in the 1970s.
“Nearly 95% of shark species are endangered because there is a very high demand for their fins, particularly in China,” he said. “The Chinese believe that shark-fin soup is an aphrodisiac and pay a very high price for it.”
Baranes lamented: “Most of the time, they cut the fins off the sharks and throw them back into the sea while they are still alive, and they can no longer swim or breathe.”
The professor added that shark is not considered kosher, but it is popular for its meat in the Arab community.
“Most of the Arab fishermen in the Mediterranean catch sharks because they have good meat and they can sell them,” he said, noting that the fins are not considered a delicacy in the Middle East.
Baranes said shark is particularly popular in the Gaza Strip, where there is no law against catching them.