Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has declared Samoa’s oceans as a “shark sanctuary.”
It means that as of today, the Government has officially banned all commercial fishing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays.
The announcement was made last night at Sails Restaurant where international participants of the first Pacific Ministerial Shark Symposium being held in Apia, applauded Samoa’s decision.
“Samoa has therefore joined the positions of other shark conservation Pacific islands by designating our national waters a shark sanctuary, safe for all sharks and rays,” Tuilaepa said.
“Not only will the complete ban of commercial fishing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays in our waters provide much needed relief declining populations, it will also help prevent further degradation to the health of our oceans.”
The Prime Minister added that the decision will draw tourists for a chance to experience these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
In doing so, Samoa will fulfill her commitment to implement all current and future shark and ray listings pledged during the UN Ocean Conference last year.
“Shark sanctuaries are the strongest measures that we can put in place to protect these species in our waters and to strengthen the resilience of our marine environments,” Tuilaepa said.
“Inspired by the success of our Pacific island neighbours, Samoa’s shark sanctuary will be a platform in the global community to promote conservation awareness.
“We as island leaders have been charged with the protection and the sustainable development of the region’s marine environment.
“We will not sit idly by while the demand for shark products robs us our future generations of these culturally, ecologically and economically valuable species. Let us together continue to safeguard these imperiled species for our future generation.”
Tuilaepa added: “To us Pacific Islanders, the ocean shapes our sense of home, it drives our economies and it is woven into our culture.
“Over the past 150 years, our Pacific people have seen their iconic marine species hunted by industrialized and developed countries outside our region. One such species of concern that has gathered us here today, are sharks.
Tuilaepa added that sharks are an important species to the Pacific heritage; they play a critical role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and emphasized on the multimillion dollar shark dive industry as one example that sharks are more valuable alive in the ocean rather than dead.
The Acting Director General of S.P.R.E.P., Roger Cornforth, congratulated Samoa for the announcement.
“Tonight is a special occasion as we come together to congratulate the Government and people of Samoa for designating their national waters a sanctuary for all sharks and rays,” he said.
“Not only does this highlight their commitments but Samoa now becomes the eighth Pacific country to establish a sanctuary with strong conservation and management measures for sharks. This brings a total area of 17 million sq. km of EEZs established as shark sanctuaries.”