The Marshall Islands are now home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary, an area of the central Pacific Ocean four times the size of California, The Pew Environment Group confirmed in a news announcement today.
The Washington-based conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect the oceans, said the Nitijela, the Parliament of the Marshalls, passed legislation unanimously last week that ends commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,530 square kilometers (768,547 square miles) of the central Pacific country’s waters, an ocean area four times the landmass of California.
Need To Protect Sharks From Habitat Loss And Fishing
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is about midway between Hawaii and Australia, so it’s not that easy to get to for most of us! The islands were under U.S. administration for almost 40 years, but in 1986 they gained independence.
The Pacific Ocean republic said it would ban trade in shark products and commercial shark fishing throughout its waters in an effort to protect sharks under threat from habitat loss and fishing, the BBC reported Sunday.
“In passing this [shark protection] bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy,” said Sen. Tony deBrum, who co-sponsored the bill in the archipelago’s Parliament.
Tourism, including diving, is a large contributor to the economy of the Marshall Islands, home to just 68,000 people.
“Ours may be a small island nation but our waters are now the biggest place sharks are protected,” deBrum said.
Currently About A Third Of Ocean-Going Sharks Listed As Threatened
About a third of ocean-going sharks are on an international list of threatened species.
According to The Pew Environment’s statement, the key provisions of the Marshall Islands’ new law include:
• A complete prohibition on the commercial fishing of sharks as well as the sale of any sharks or shark products. Its zero retention stipulation requires that any shark caught accidentally by fishing vessels must be set free.
• Large monetary fines, anywhere between U.S.$25,000 to U.S.$200,000, for anyone who is found to be fishing sharks or in possession of shark fins. In addition, violators would be fined the market value of the product in their possession.
• A ban on the use of wire leaders, a longline fishing gear which is among the most lethal to sharks.
• A monitoring and enforcement provision which requires all fishing vessels to land their catch at one of the country’s ports and bans at sea transfers.
Palau, Maldives, Honduras, Bahamas, Tokelau Offer Shark Protection
The Marshall Islands have joined Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau as locations that offer total protection for sharks. It would be great if other countries joined in too!
Photo Credit: bee happy123
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