Why sharks matter to Pacific

By Nefertiti Matatia ,

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OCEANS TALK: Kiribati Cabinet Minister Alexander Teabo in Apia.

OCEANS TALK: Kiribati Cabinet Minister Alexander Teabo in Apia.

The livelihoods of the people of Kiribati depends on the ocean.

So say Kiribat’s Minister for Environment Lands and Agriculture Development, Alexander Teabo, who was in Samoa last week.

Attending the Pacific Ministerial Shark Symposium, he said they received approximately A$200 million (T$398.3 million) each year from fishing.

Mr. Teabo said the meeting in Apia last week was important for the Kiribati people because they have a very big marine protected area called the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (P.I.P.A.).

“Back home, we have already made a regulation on the shark sanctuary that has been done by the Government, that we have banned all commercial activities on the sharks since 2015,” he said.

“Last year we went to New York and declared that we are a Shark Sanctuary nation, we have a really big sea. It is as big as the California State.”

Talking to the Samoa Observer, he said sharks have a vital role in their marine life.

“Sharks are like the Policemen in the ocean and having no sharks, the food chain will collapse. The coral reef would be ruined when the algae grows and destroys the coral. The shark police control the predators that eat the smaller fish.

“There would be no more life in the sea and we depend on the sea.

“We don’t make money from sharks because the presence of the shark is very important to make our world in the ocean. We love the ocean very much because of lives is in the ocean,” he said.

He believes once the sharks are extinct, that would be the end of the ocean.

They are working closely with the Secretariat Pacific Regional Environment Program (S.P.R.E.P.) and the Global Shark Conservation - The Pew Charitable Trusts to prevent this from happening.

“Right now we are still protecting the sharks with the assistance of S.P.R.E.P. and P.E.W. in terms of capacity building and the staff of the fisheries inspecting venders, those that are selling out fish and also with the fishing vessels that are fishing in our waters.”

Sharks don’t only bring balance to the food chain of the marine life, for them it holds a legend of their people that portrays their culture.

“We have a legend of two men. One had to stay on the land while the other was sent to be the caretaker of the sea.

“Bakoa which means shark, he was the one that was driven out to control the sea. Tabakea was the one controlling the land. In the legend they lived together in the first place.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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