June 17, 2016
THE Caribbean boasts two new shark sanctuaries as the Cayman Islands and St. Maarten on Wednesday declared their territorial waters covering some 49,190 square miles closed to all commercial shark fishing.
During a three-day shark conservation meeting in the Dutch Caribbean country of St Maarten, the popular diving destinations announced protected areas for the endangered marine predators along with officials from Pew Charitable Trusts and billionaire ocean advocate Richard Branson.
The two new protected areas for sharks in the Caribbean brings the global number to 14, according to Pew, a Philadelphia-headquartered non-profit organisation.
Half of the protected zones for sharks are now in the Caribbean. And the islands of Grenada and Curacao are vowing to pass legislation to create sanctuaries in their waters as well.
Virgin Group founder Branson applauded the Caribbean governments for creating new protected areas and encouraged other nations and territories to follow suit to establish a region-wide shark sanctuary.
“The bold action taken by Caribbean governments to fully protect sharks in their waters is truly commendable,” Mr. Branson said. Pew said other regional shark and ray sanctuaries have been created in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Honduras, Saba and Bonaire.
Luke Warwick, director of Pew’s global shark conservation campaign, said sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. He said catching the top predators for their fins, liver oil, cartilage and other parts can have serious impacts on “more commercially significant fish species and the overall health of the marine environment”.
“Sharks pose little danger to humans, but they do support profitable dive and snorkel tourism worldwide wherever they are still found in significant numbers,” Mr. Warwick said.
Roughly 100 million sharks are killed every year.
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