Sharks Strategy devised at Vailima
With approximately 100 million sharks killed every year, 54 percent of sharks and rays are threatened or near threatened with extinction.
The Pacific islands are working to combat this by developing a strategy to protect and manage sharks and rays in the region.
Members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) are leading regional and global efforts to protect sharks, one example of which is the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which is the size of the European Union.
A two day meeting was held at Vailima to plan a way forward to develop the strategy that will protect and manage sharks and rays in the Pacific.
"Developing a Pacific Shark Strategy will help us to guide and advise our member countries in the protection and management of sharks and rays, including through the development of shark sanctuaries and protected areas," said Leota Kosi Latu, the Director General of S.P.R.E.P.
Partnerships to make this possible play a key role in helping to achieve positive outcomes as stressed by Luke Warwick, Director of the Global Shark Conservation Programme for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Without partnerships in the region like those with S.P.R.E.P and the Micronesia Conservation Trust, none of the work required with Pacific island countries on the ground would get done,” said Mr. Warwick.
"Our hope is that this plan that will help strengthen the protection and management of sharks and rays in the region during the coming years."
This was further emphasised by Leota.
"Partnerships are key to us. They help us deliver core activities, and in the case of our partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts, it will give us an opportunity to work more effectively on shark and ray conservation in the Pacific region."
The Pacific has recently emerged as a leader in shark conservation on an international scale, as Fiji has proposed listing nine species of mobula to be listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Illegal Trade of Endangered Species and Wild Flora and Fauna (C.I.T.E.S) and Samoa has co-sponsored the proposal to list thresher sharks on Appendix II of C.I.T.E.S at the Conference of the Parties in September of this year.
These are listings that would offer global protections for species suffering over 70 per cent declines, wherever they are found.
Preventing continued declines of these species is crucial to many economies, as shark tourism is an important attraction for many visitors to the Pacific islands, especially Fiji and Palau.
Throughout its lifespan one reef shark can earn $1.9m dollars to a country through dive tourism as opposed to $108 for a dead shark.
The key ways to reduce shark mortalities are to limit supply, regulate trade and reduce demand.
Limiting supply to levels that will ensure sharks can survive and recover can be achieved by implementing strong management measures that ensure shark catch sustainability, or through the designation of shark sanctuaries, and prohibiting the fishing of depleted species, like the silky, thresher, hammerhead and oceanic white-tip shark species, some of which are endangered.
A whole range of measures will be required to save these endangered and threatened species, and every country needs to play its part in the management and protection of sharks, which are central to many Pacific islands cultures.
The Pacific Shark Strategy Meeting was held at the S.P.R.E.P campus and was attended by participants from S.P.R.E.P, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Micronesia Conservation Trust and other partners.