Shark, turtle protection key to marine conservation initiative

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) is working to protect culturally important marine species, such as sharks and turtles from being accidentally caught up in commercial fishing.

A range of Government Ministry executives and representatives from non-Government organisations are participants in the new programme. 

Its ultimate goal is to protect marine life by putting a barrier between endangered species and tuna longline fishing which exposes the species to high threats. 

The By-catch and Integrated Ecosystem Management (B.I.E.M.) initiative is the result of a marine partnership between the Pacific and the European Union (E.U.). The programme is funded by the E.U. itself and Sweden. 

The management’s programme director at S.P.R.E.P., Jamie Davies, said that the secretariat is committed to supporting Pacific countries by delivering their various commitments to reducing the incidental (“by-catch”) of all threatened, endangered and protected species. 

“We are extremely pleased to have funding through the [partnership] programme to work directly with Ministries, industry and N.G.O.s to provide equipment and training to skippers and crew that will help them minimise interactions and ultimately death of species that play such an important role in oceanic ecosystems as well as Pacific cultures,” he said.

The B.I.E.M. is designed to support Pacific states’ regional and national commitments to reducing the number of unintentional "by-catching" of all threatened, endangered and protected species, including culturally important animals such as turtles and sharks.

Ministries and N.G.O.s are collaborating on bringing it to fruition. 

S.P.R.E.P. is leading the bycatch reduction initiative and is supporting Governments from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu to boot their coastal management. 

Among the programme’s key initiatives is to develop more sophisticated “ridge to reef” and coastal zone planning, anticipating and mitigating climate change, and better assessing the risks that by-catching poses. 

Human rights and gender equality will be a foundation of each of these aims, the secretariat says. 

The Government of Fiji has been a particularly active advocate of the conservation and management of sharks and rays. 

Global shark populations are rapidly declining despite being seen more frequently in Fiji waters recently. 

A recent study revealed that the global population of open-ocean sharks and rays has declined by 71 per cent since the 1970s due to an 18-fold increase in the pressures associated with fishing. 

Half of all the 31 species of oceanic sharks and rays are now either critically endangered or endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Insufficient species-specific data is also frustrating attempts to protect sharks and rays. 

Estimates are largely dependent on reports from observations made by fishing vessels themselves. 


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