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The world over’s seas, extra refuges for predators



On June 15, the Cayman Islands and St. Maarten within the Caribbean grew to become the newest territories to shut their territorial waters to industrial shark fishing, elevating the variety of shark sanctuaries across the globe to 21.
Grenada and Curacao additionally vowed to go laws
banning shark finning of their unique financial zones (EEZs) earlier than 2017. This represents an unlimited triumph for the safety of
marine ecosystems. Right here’s why.

What’s a shark sanctuary?

Shark sanctuaries are a type of marine protected space (MPA) that usually ban industrial fishing of sharks; some additionally ban leisure fishing of all species.

The historical past of shark sanctuaries dates again to 2002, when Samoa declared its EEZ to be a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks. The Pacific island nation of Palau adopted in 2009 when it singled out sharks by designating its waters because the world’s first shark sanctuary. In 2014, the nation expanded this right into a nationwide marine sanctuary banning overseas industrial fishing in an space the scale of France.

Since then, the Bahamas, Honduras, the Maldives and plenty of others created their very own shark sanctuaries. Collectively, shark sanctuaries worldwide embody greater than 15.5 million sq. kilometers (virtually 6 million sq. miles) — greater than twice the
measurement of Australia.

Recent shark fins drying on the deck of an unlawful fishing vessel in Indonesia. (© Conservation Worldwide/picture by Abraham Goram)

Why ought to sharks get particular consideration?

In lots of Pacific Islands nations corresponding to New Caledonia, sharks maintain a particular place in native tradition.

“In Kanak [indigenous Melanesian] mythology, sharks symbolize the elder — the ancestor that gave birth to the first man,” defined Mael Imirizaldu, a marine adviser for Conservation Worldwide (CI) in New Caledonia. “No
hurt is ever purposefully finished to a shark right here.”

Species are the constructing blocks of wholesome ecosystems, and sharks are a few of the greatest. In line with Schannel van Dijken, marine program director for CI Samoa, “As apex predators, they’re a key indicator of ocean well being. They take away sick or
unhealthy fish from the inhabitants; they maintain the species beneath them in test, and thus keep species variety.”

Eradicating sharks from ecosystems could be disastrous. Some research have discovered that sharks are essential for wholesome coral reefs.
With out sharks to maintain mid-level predators in test, the inhabitants of these mid-level predators would explode, leading to a dramatic decline within the herbivorous fish they eat. With fewer herbivorous fish, algae would overtake younger coral, and
the reef would decay.

From an financial standpoint, tourism would additionally endure.

Working example: A research in Palau discovered that one shark can generate
US$ 2 million in ecotourism advantages over its lifetime, in contrast with $108 for the one-time sale of its fin. Diving in Palau is so widespread that its income makes up 39 p.c of the nation’s GDP. Sharks and mantas have been ranked as the highest points of interest for divers, which means the economies of complete communities and nations depend upon shark sanctuaries.

“Most marine megafauna are worth more alive than dead in terms of tourism,” stated Olive Andrews, CI’s marine program supervisor in New Zealand. “The [Palau] sanctuary permits for analysis and conservation efforts to be finished in partnership
with tourism operations. As such, it encourages public schooling in regards to the sharks’ plight — a service as beneficial as direct conservation measures, as a result of it provides folks the chance to take part and help the conservation of the
locations and species they love.”

A blacktip reef shark cruises in waters close to Kiribati. (© Cat Holloway)

Additional studying

Do shark sanctuaries work?

On the floor, defending sharks appears daunting. The ocean is huge, and there are numerous difficulties procuring the sources wanted to make sure the success of shark sanctuaries. Additionally, sharks are extremely migratory animals. “Final yr on a humpback
whale survey in New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands, we encountered an awesome white shark feeding on a useless humpback whale calf,”
Andrews stated. “We photographed the shark, and it seems that it’s a recognized particular person — tagged as a juvenile 5 years in the past close to Stewart Island on the opposite facet of New Zealand. This animal has been documented touring over 1,500
kilometers (932 miles) to feed, which is fairly extraordinary.”

As Angelo Villagomez, a senior affiliate for shark conservation with the Pew Charitable Trusts, shared on that group’s web site, “many of those who said [protecting sharks] was impossible underestimated the commitment of the people and governments” that established shark sanctuaries.

Authorities within the Marshall Islands, for instance, prosecuted 5 shark sanctuary violations in early 2013, leading to fines exceeding $200,000. In Indonesia, the federal government has ramped up enforcement of the nation’s MPAs, sinking poaching boats to ship a message to different would-be unlawful fishers. Though sharks reside a very long time and are sluggish to sexually
mature, there may be proof that shark populations are starting to get better.

What’s subsequent?

Again in March, the Galápagos Islands made information when Ecuador expanded its “no-take zone” to embody 30 p.c of its marine reserve,
creating the sanctuary with the largest focus of sharks on the planet. Scott Henderson,
vice chairman of CI’s Jap Tropical Pacific Seascape program — which incorporates the Galápagos — identified that the Galápagos Marine Reserve had technically been a shark sanctuary since its creation.

“No shark fishing is permitted in the reserve, and even incidental (bycatch) of sharks in legal fisheries must be released alive or, at worst, discarded dead,” he stated. “The distinction is the expanded sanctuary will permit no fishing of any variety, so there will probably be no incidental seize of species corresponding to sharks, turtles, mantas or seabirds to take care of. Importantly, focused shark fishing is prohibited in Ecuadorian waters, however retention of bycatch is permitted so long as
all shark catches are recorded.”

Different nations proceed to make progress. “Samoa has legislation protecting sharks and rays, but there is no legislation against exporting shark fins,” van Dijken stated. “The federal government is presently engaged on amending the laws
to incorporate this.”

As species which have outlived the dinosaurs, that steadiness marine meals webs, that enhance human well-being and which have captured the imaginations of people for millennia, sharks are beginning to get the protections they deserve.

Ben Koses is an intern for Conservation Worldwide.

Wish to learn extra tales like this? Join e-mail updates. Donate to Conservation Worldwide.

Cowl picture: A whale shark swims with a snorkeler in Indonesia. Though whale sharks aren’t prime targets for industrial fisheries, markets for his or her fins exist — even though their worth in tourism far exceeds the worth of their fins. (© Conservation Worldwide/picture by Mark Erdmann)

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