A shark sanctuary has been declared around the Raja Ampat islands in Indonesia. Larger than Denmark, the new sanctuary covers 17,760 square miles (46,000 square kilometers) of one of the world’s richest marine biodiverse region, the Coral Triangle. Protections not only cover sharks, but dugongs, marine turtles, mobulas, and manta rays as well. In addition, reef bombing and fishing for the aquarium trade are banned.
“Sharks are being killed for their fins, mantas are being killed for their gills, and rare reef fish are being caught for aquariums,” said Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, a conservation organization that works in the region. “It’s tragic that so much of Raja Ampat’s biological treasure is destined for consumers who are unaware of the impact.”
Sharks have been devastated worldwide, largely linked to the trade for shark fin soup. Sharks are caught, finned (whereby fishermen cuts off their fins), and then tossed overboard into the ocean to perish. It is estimated that 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins alone.
Seventy-five percent of shark species found in Raja Ampat are threatened with extinction.
Campaigners for the new sanctuary hope the move will bring more divers and tourists to the region, thereby offsetting any loss of revenues for local communities due to the new regulations.
“This new Shark Sanctuary owes its creation to thousands of ocean advocates who expressed the urgent need to protect sharks, mantas, and other marine life,” stated Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers, a conservation group that campaigned for the sanctuary. “Divers experience the oceans from the inside and are increasingly taking responsibility for ocean and shark conservation. Underwater ecotourism is a vital tool to counter the rampant exploitation of the world’s remaining sharks and bio-rich marine ecosystems.”
(09/13/2010) Shark attack survivors urged the United Nations to take measures to protect sharks, which are increasingly threatened by unsustainable fishing practices.
(07/22/2010) Citibank Hong Kong has canceled its promotion of shark fin soup after activists cried foul, according to the New York Times. The branch had offered Citibank card holders 15 percent off a shark fin soup dinner at Maxim’s Chinese Cuisine for the month of July.
(05/31/2010) Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has signed into law a ban on shark-fin soup beginning July 1st, 2011, according to Reuters. The soup is currently served in a number of Chinese restaurants in Hawaii, but the trade has decimated certain shark species due to overfishing.