Posted on Friday, 28 October 2011
There has been some negative news of sharks in the press of late so I thought it would be an opportune time to write about some very exciting and positive news that has happened for shark conservation in the last year.
A number of shark sanctuaries or shark protected areas have been created, legislation in numerous important cities has been passed banning the trade of shark fins and awareness in China on the need to conserve sharks is making progress.
The creation of Shark Sanctuaries
The President of Palau led the way in creating the first shark sanctuary in 2009. Further to this at The United Nations he also strongly urged all nations to do the same and also raised awareness among leaders about the precarious state of our oceans.
In 2010 The Maldives created a shark sanctuary followed by Raja Ampat (Indonesia) , Honduras and The Bahamas.
The Marshall Islands have now just created the world’s largest shark sanctuary of nearly 770,000 square miles.
The legislation for the Marshall Islands is significant.
All commercial fishing for sharks is banned as well the sale, possession and trade of fins and all shark products.
No shark by catch is allowed and any shark accidently caught must be set free.
Heavy fines have been put in place and enforcement requires that all catches are landed within one of the country’s ports and bans transfers at sea.
In September Mexico announced plans to ban shark and ray fishing. Mexico is a huge fishing nation and we know that many Great White sharks are killed here every year. The details are sketchy but the declaration is a massive start as the ripple effect seems to spread.
Taiwan is also said to ban shark finning from 2012. (The whole shark carcass must be landed). Although not an all-out ban, it is a step forward for the country that has the fourth highest shark catch rate in the world. Taiwan would join Chile which banned shark finning in July 2011.
Banning the sale and trade of shark fins.
The biggest victory is the recent banning of the trade, possession and sale of sharks fins in California. Interestingly 70% of the Asian community supported the bill with most of the opposition coming from traders who had hired lobbyists.
This legislation is vitally important because California is the largest collection point for fins from Central and South America that are then shipped to the Pacific rim. If fins can’t get out, they can’t be bought.
With many other cities now following suit this could be a major factor in reducing commercial shark fishing.
California now joins other US states of Hawaii and Oregon.
Toronto, which is the largest market for shark products in Canada, and Ontario have also passed the same bill. The Toronto bill which was passed last week makes a very strong call for other Canadian cities to join them.
All these bills had huge public support so I strongly urge you to sign petitions and write letters when requested. You can make a difference!
Fuji have indicated that they are also looking at introducing the ban of trade and possession of shark fins and products although no possible date as yet been given.
In Singapore a leading supermarket chain has supported WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Group and is no longer selling shark fin and shark products from its 42 outlets. Singapore is one the biggest consumers of seafood in the Asia-Pacific region so a large supermarket chain taking a step like this is very positive. And again it will lead the way for others to follow.
Awareness in China
Yao Ming, Sir Richard Branson and billionaire entrepreneur, Zhang Yue have teamed up with WildAid whereby they have filmed public service announcements to stop eating shark fin soup that will be broadcast throughout China.
Richard Pierce from The Shark Trust presented “Shark Champion” awards to 3 prominent Chinese for their work in shark conservation in China. A proposal for the ban of trade in shark fins in China was submitted to The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in March. The proposal received a lot of support (from 45 memebers). This group firmly believes that it is not a matter of If but When this legislation will be passed.
If this should happen it will have a direct and major influence on stopping the decline of shark populations worldwide.
Like me I am sure you will all be very eagerly watching this space.
I have to say this has been a heart-warming exercise for me. Whilst doing this research I have been so surprised to learn of many of the events above. The swell is building and I do truly believe that change is coming.