Pacific Islands pushing for shark and ray conservation
Governments from the Pacific, the Maldives and Sri Lanka were in Fiji in April to discuss proposals to improve protection for threatened shark and ray species at this year’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species which will be held in South Africa in October. The government of Fiji is the leading proponent to list endangered species of devil rays, a species very similar to the widely known manta ray.
Mr Ian Campbell, WWF’s Global Shark and Ray Initiative Manager said, “Sharks, and their close relatives the rays, are intrinsically linked with the South Pacific’s cultural heritage, yet these iconic species are under significant pressure and showing worrying rates of decline. The main threats sharks and rays face come from overfishing and loss of habitats.”
“Many species of sharks and rays are also particularly vulnerable to these threats as they give birth to few young when compared to other species of fish. WWF has been collaborating with Pacific governments and agencies to improve the conservation status of sharks and rays throughout the region.”
“We are very happy to receive the backing of the Republic of Palau, who join Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia in leading global shark and ray conservation efforts in the Pacific, we hope to see more Pacific countries joining soon”.
Palau became the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 banning all shark fishing in its territorial waters, and is looking at banning all commercial fishing by 2018, creating a sanctuary the size of France. Fiji became the first Pacific country to successfully propose international protection for rays at the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Animals (CMS) in 2014.
Mr Campbell added there has been concerted effort throughout the Pacific to improve the conservation status of sharks and rays.
“WWF are working on projects to assist countries to develop sustainable management plans in their waters. We have recently assisted the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) develop measures to ensure there is no excessive shark catches for Samoa, and are providing technical assistance to the Fijian government for their CITES proposal.”
“Also, both the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are working on developing sustainable management plans, and we look forward to working with these countries to help them meet their conservation objectives.”