Nine governments across Micronesia convened from April 6-7, 2016 at a workshop in Palikir, Federated States of Micronesia to discuss how to work collaboratively to ensure effective enforcement of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary and discuss the larger fisheries management challenges, including Illegal unreported and unregulated vessels.
The Pacific island jurisdictions of Palau, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and its four States of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Territory of Guam attended the workshop hosted by the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, with support from the Micronesia Conservation Trust and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary was completed in 2015, an area that spans 6.5 million square kilometers and prohibits the commercial fishing for sharks, retention of sharks caught as bycatch, and trade, possession, and sale of shark products.
Enforcement of the Regional Shark Sanctuary is key to ensuring meaningful protections for these species.
“It is critical we take the words in the shark protection measures and put them into action on a regional level if we wish to protect these species,” Vice President Yosiwo George stated during his opening remarks. “This workshop is a momentous step to doing just that and illustrates the Pacific’s understanding of the importance of this Regional Sanctuary to its marine ecosystem and the lives of those relying on these resources.”
Palau’s Vice President Antonio Bells added: “Sharks are worth more alive than dead, especially in Palau’s waters, with one reef shark contributing US $1.9 million over its lifetime compared to a one-time value of $108 if sold at the market.”
In the closing of his keynote address, Tony De Brum, Ambassador of Climate Change for the Republic of the Marshall Islands stated, “If the jurisdictions of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary are able to harmonize their enforcement efforts and make these shark protections a reality, it will go down in history as a major achievement not just for the Pacific region, but on a global scale.”
The regional workshop builds on a series of enforcement workshops that began in 2012 held across the region to train officials on best practices to implement the shark sanctuary laws. These workshops laid the groundwork for this regional workshop as each jurisdiction now has an understanding of the successes and challenges to enforcing their respective sanctuaries.
“The Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is the first in the world and is a significant accomplishment in and of itself, but it also acts as a framework for each jurisdiction moving forward to enforce its regulations,” explained Willy Kostka, Executive Director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust, one of the organizations instrumental in the development of the FSM shark sanctuary.
The workshop included facilitated discussions on maximizing the effectiveness of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) efforts across the sanctuary and presentations from both government officials and experts in the field. Peter Graham, representing the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency presented on the multiple tools available to enhance communication and collaboration between governments to enforce fisheries management measures, including shark protections, which will assist these jurisdictions in working together to make regional enforcement a reality.
At least 100 million sharks are killed per year in commercial fisheries due to the unsustainable demand for their fins, and nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction.
“Given the importance of sharks to the Pacific ecologically, economically, and culturally, the ability for these governments to work together to develop solutions to enforce the shark sanctuary on a regional scale is a significant step toward ensuring these species survival,” said Jen Sawada, Officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts.