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Side Events at 26th SPREP Meeting: Progressing shark protection in the Pacific

24 September, 2015, Apia, Samoa, 26SM Side Event Update - The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and The Pew Charitable Trusts shared their commitment to protecting sharks in the Pacific at a joint side event today, at the 26th SPREP Meeting.

Ms Jennifer Sawada from The Pew Charitable Trusts spoke about the important role sharks play towards the health of reefs and ocean ecosystems. With approximately 100 million sharks killed every year in commercial fisheries, mainly driven by the demand for shark fins, many of the more than 500 species of sharks are threatened. In some regions, shark populations have declined by as much as 90%.

Sharks grow slowly, are late to mature, and produce very few offspring over long lifetimes, which make them vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion.

As predators, sharks are keystone species in Pacific Island ecosystems and are worth more alive than dead. A reef shark is estimated to have a lifetime value of US$1.9 million to the tourism industry, compared to US$108 dead. Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Cook Islands, have all declared their entire exclusive economic zones (EEZ) as shark sanctuaries, banning the commercial fishing of sharks within their waters.

Pew1Ms. Jennifer Sawada, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Conservation of sharks and rays is a shared goal of Pew and SPREP. So much so that the two organisations agreed earlier in the year to work together to progress conservation of sharks and rays in the Pacific. The two organisations will provide support to assist Pacific island countries to improve data collection and collation, encourage them to sign and ratify the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), develop national plans of actions, and contribute to the development of a SPREP Shark Action Plan as part of the Pacific Island Region Marine Species Programme, as endorsed by the 25th SPREP Meeting.

pew3Mr Michael Donoghue, SPREP

Michael Donoghue, SPREP's Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, said that SPREP's position of a Shark and Ray Conservation Officer will work with member countries to assist them in their shark and ray conservation efforts. Interviews are currently being conducted, with the position due to be filled by the end of next month.

Presenters: Ms Jennifer Sawada – Global Shark Conservation Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Mr Michael Donohue – Threatened and Migratory Species Advisor, SPREP
Partners: SPREP, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Pacific Island Governments
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