Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement today in response to French Polynesia announcing comprehensive and permanent shark protections. The announcement was made on Dec. 6 during the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Manila, Philippines.
“We applaud the government of French Polynesia for its bold decision to establish the world’s largest shark sanctuary by banning fishing for all shark species in the country’s entire exclusive economic zone. At more than 4.7 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of ocean, this designation doubles the size of the area already protected by all six existing shark sanctuaries.
“There is growing awareness around the world of the threats facing sharks and the need to protect them. In the past few months alone, American Samoa and the Micronesian state of Kosrae have put an end to shark fishing, and the European Union and Venezuela have banned shark finning. Even yesterday, we saw landmark protections for whale sharks through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
“However, as sharks are threatened throughout much of the world’s oceans and there is a great need to protect them before they slip below levels from which they may never recover. It’s now up to countries around the world to build on this recent success and ensure a sustainable future for sharks.”
Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed, primarily to support the global shark fin trade. One-third of shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Sharks play an important role in traditional Polynesian culture.
- Since 2006, there had been a 10-year moratorium in place after assessments showed shark populations were rapidly declining. However, mako sharks, fished for their fins and meat, were not previously covered under the moratorium.
- French Polynesia created a shark sanctuary by establishing a permanent closure on shark fishing in their waters, and by updating their present conservation measure to include mako sharks.
- More than 21 species of sharks can be found in French Polynesia, including several species that have been assessed by the IUCN Red List as being Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction, and are currently being proposed for protection under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES): great hammerheads and oceanic whitetips.