Monday, October 3, 2011

Marshall Islands establishes world's largest shark sanctuary

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is now home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary. The MPA ends commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,530 square kilometers (768,547 square miles) of the central Pacific country’s waters - an equivalent ocean area four times the landmass of California.

Key provisions of the Marshall Islands' sanctuary include:
  • A prohibition on the commercial fishing of sharks as well as the sale of any sharks or shark products. Its zero retention stipulation requires that any shark caught accidentally by fishing vessels must be set free.
  • Large monetary fines between US$25,000 to US$200,000 for anyone who is found to be fishing sharks or in possession of shark fins. In addition, violators would be fined the market value of the product in their possession.
  • A ban on the use of wire leaders, a longline fishing gear which is among the most lethal to sharks.
  • A monitoring and enforcement provision which requires all fishing vessels to land their catch at one of the country's ports and bans at sea transfers.
The challenge in the management of this sanctuary will be ensuring there are adequate monitoring and enforcement control mechanisms in place. The sheer scale of the area presents a logistical, technical and financial challenge - particularly to control IUU fisheries in the area - and to ensure that trans-shipment of shark products do not occur. Cross boundary partnerships in the region should be developed that compliment the outcomes in the sanctuary. Ultimately the market for shark fin products should be eradicated to ensure a future for this magnificent ocean species.

More on the initiative here at Pew.

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