Brazzaville - The government of Congo-Brazzaville has banned shark fishing off its Atlantic coast to prevent depletion of stocks caused by massive demand in Asia for shark fins, the government announced Sunday.

The ban was effective from mid-May, according to a circular from Fisheries Minister Henri Djombo to the fishing industry and individual fishermen.

The government fisheries department in Congo's second city, the port of Pointe-Noire, said the ban had been imposed because the fishing level posed a threat to the survival of sharks off the Congo coast.

"Catching dogfish sharks has become large-scale because Senegalese traders at Pointe-Nore do big business exporting fins to Asian countries," a local official said.

Shark fishing in the area took off in 1998, said Augustin Kegui, speaking for Ghanaian fishermen in Pointe-Noire.

Ghanaians make up the largest west African fishing community in Pointe-Noire.

"You can catch four to five sharks a day," Kegui said, adding:

"They sell at 50 000 CFA francs (about R500) each."

He said fishing other species was far less lucrative because of oil pollution off the coast of Congo.

Congo-Brazzaville has a narrow stretch of Atlantic coast between Gabon and its larger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Sapa-AFP