Shark sanctuaries need enforcement

Publication Specs

Title: Indicators of fishing mortality on reef-shark populations in the world’s first shark sanctuary: the need for surveillance and enforcement
Authors: Gabriel M.S. Vianna, Mark G. Meekan, Jonathan L.W. Ruppert, Tova H. Bornovski, Jessica J. Meeuwig
Journal: Coral Reefs
Year: 2016

When you think of a shark sanctuary what do you imagine? Perhaps a beautiful coral reef that is a blue haven for sharks? Hold that thought while we take a moment to examine reality through the eyes of science.

A recent study in Palau evaluated the world’s first shark sanctuary using underwater visual surveys. This shark sanctuary covers an area of 629,000km2 and was declared in 2009 to try to stop foreign long-line vessels from finning sharks. However, this study demonstrated that illegal, underreported, and unregulated shark fishing is still present within the sanctuary, particularly in remote offshore areas. In these areas, there was an abundance of lost fishing gear and there were fewer and smaller sharks than close to shore.

Sometimes marine protected areas, like shark sanctuaries, get a bad rap as “paper parks”, or protected areas that are essentially just written on paper because they lack the enforcement required to truly protect species living within them. Palau may have created an important management tool, but they are lacking the resources required to follow through on regulations. This study also sheds light on the fact that without baseline data on shark populations within the proposed protected zones, it becomes difficult to monitor their effectiveness over time. If we truly want a blue haven for sharks, the research demonstrates that enforcement within shark sanctuaries is an urgent need. The country’s government is currently expanding enforcement efforts within the shark sanctuary.

Global FinPrint

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