Sharks are safer in the Pacific Ocean, thanks to Micronesia's establishment of the world's second-largest shark sanctuary. The protected area, equal in size to India, will help strengthen the marine ecosystem and economy.
The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) passed legislation in early February to create a shark sanctuary in the country’s full exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which covers nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) in the western Pacific Ocean. President Manny Mori signed the legislation, now Public Law No. 18-108, on February 27, 2015.
The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has worked the past four years with the Micronesia Conservation Trust to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia, welcomed the legislation. The measure prohibits the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and rays and their parts.
Implementing New Shark Protections Worldwide
Countries around the world have been working together on an unprecedented scale to prepare for new landmark shark protections that went into effect Sunday, September 14, 2014. Excitement about the potential impact of the new rules was building around the globe among those concerned about the future of these predators so vital to a healthy ocean food web.Under these new rules, international trade in sharks that are commercially exploited in large numbers are regulated for the first time.Learn more about the efforts that countries worldwide have undertaken to prepare for the deadline through an inspiring video and Web features that tell the story of the implementation of the new protections.For more resources on shark preservation from Pew visit Global Shark Conservation.
"Our commitment to the Micronesia Challenge includes the protection of the top predators in our ocean," President Mori said. The Micronesia Challenge is a regional declaration of conservation goals to which the nation agreed in 2006. "Our traditional stories say that sharks protect the people. Now the people will protect the sharks."
“The completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is truly a landmark action because it joins together a massive swath of the western Pacific as a trans-boundary sanctuary for all the sharks that migrate across this huge ocean region.” Angelo Villagomez, a shark expert with Pew.
On a broader scale, passage of the legislation marks the completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which already includes the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. In total, the area of protected shark habitat across the contiguous area is larger than the size of the European Union.
Creation of the FSM sanctuary follows a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Micronesia Conservation Trust, based in Pohnpei. Led by executive director Willy Kostka, the organization built a coalition of conservationists, traditional leaders, and students to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia.
"More than 8,000 students from across the region signed petitions to support these protections," Kostka said. "This is something the people wanted."
Passage of the FSM’s law creates the 10th shark sanctuary in the world and cements the country as a global leader in shark conservation. The sanctuary will protect iconic species such as silky and thresher sharks, which are considered near threatened and threatened, respectively, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Worldwide, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction.
"The completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is truly a landmark action because it joins together a massive swath of the western Pacific as a trans-boundary sanctuary for all the sharks that migrate across this huge ocean region," said Villagomez. "We look forward to working with our partners in the FSM to make certain that the implementing regulations ensure strong protections for sharks."
Micronesia Speaks Up to Save Sharks | Pew
Sharks are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans, primarily as a result of the demand for their fins, which are valued as a soup ingredient in some cultures. Each year, up to 73 million of these animals are killed by humans. However, advocates in the Pacific would like to put a stop to this activity.An area covering more than 2 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean—approximately two-thirds the size of the land area of the United States—is now the world's largest shark sanctuary, and the first created through a regional agreement among governments. The resolution, which was negotiated in 2011, also authorizes the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. This short video, produced by the Pew Environment Group, demonstrates the need for countries to implement the agreement and recounts the successful efforts of Guam, where thousands of students and other citizens spoke out about the importance of safeguarding these important keystone species. Published on September 21, 2012
Sharks play an important role in maintaining the health of the entire ocean. As top predators, they regulate the variety and abundance of other species in the food web, including commercially important fish. Sharks help maintain healthy marine habitats, such as coral reefs.
They also are among the foremost species that scuba divers want to see, and their presence helps attracts tourists to these islands. By establishing a shark sanctuary, the FSM is acting to strengthen the marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, and helping to secure industries, such as tourism, that depend on a healthy ocean.