Samoa creates huge shark sanctuary
The island nation of Samoa has declared its waters a shark sanctuary, joining a string of other Pacific countries in protecting the marine predators.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele said the move would help sustain a vital part of the ocean’s ecosystem.
“We will not sit idly by while the demand for shark products robs our future generations of these culturally, ecologically and economically valuable species,” he told the Samoa Observer this week.
“Let us together continue to safeguard these imperilled species for our future generations.”
While Samoa’s landmass is tiny, its waters cover 129,000 square kilometres (50,000 square miles), an area larger than South Korea.
“Samoa has therefore joined the positions of other shark conservation Pacific islands by designating our national waters a shark sanctuary, safe for all sharks and rays,” Tuilaepa said.
“Not only will the complete ban of commercial shing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays in our waters provide much needed relief declining popula- tions, it will also help prevent further degradation to the health of our oceans.”
The Prime Minister added that the decision would draw tourists for a chance to experience these magnicent creatures in their natural habitat.
In doing so, Samoa will fulfill her commitment to imple ment all current and future shark and ray listings pledged during the UN Ocean Conference last year.
“Shark sanctuaries are the strongest measures that we can put in place to protect these species in our waters and to strengthen the resilience of our marine environments,” Tuilaepa said. “Inspired by the success of our Paci c island neighbors, Samoa’ s shark sanctuary will be a platform in the global community to promote conservation awareness.”
Tuilaepa added: “To us Pacific Islanders, the ocean shapes our sense of home, it drives our economies and it is woven into our culture.”
He noted that sharks are an important species to the Pacific heritage; they play a critical role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and emphasized on the multimillion dollar shark dive industry as one example that sharks are more valuable alive in the ocean rather than dead.