Palau joins regional initiative to protect sharks
Palau has signed up to a shark conservation initiative developed by the World Wildlife Fund.
Palau has become the latest Pacific country to join a regional shark conservation initiative to protect shark and ray species in its waters from becoming extinct.
Other countries in the region who are now backing the Pacific Shark Heritage Programme by the World Wildlife Fund includ Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia.
Palau became the world's first shark sanctuary in 2009 banning all shark fishing in its territorial waters, and is looking at banning all commercial fishing by 2018
Ian Campbell, WWF's Global Shark and Ray initiative manager told Indira Stewart he hopes more Pacific governments will jump on board.
IAN CAMPBELL: We want as many Pacific countries to join up and get to help them conserve these important species of sharks and rays in the entire Pacific.
INDIRA STEWART: How likely is it to get other governments in support of this conservation effort? What are the barriers?
IC: The barriers at the moment is getting to each country to inform them of what we're doing. We're currently based in Fiji and it's just getting out to the countries to inform them. Once we speak to governments, they're very very receptive of what we're doing.
IS: Ok, so the main thing is educating them or letting them know - raising awareness of the rates of decline of the species? Especially sharks and...
IC: - Yes, I mean people are pretty much aware of sharks being threatened by loss of habitat and overfishing. And there are lots of programmes out there. But one of the messages that keeps getting lost is that it's not just about losing species, it's about a loss of links to culture and heritage for the region.
IS: Sure, in terms of overfishing being a big threat to the declining rates of sharks and ray species in the region's waters, they're not specifically a fish that's targeted so it's not like Tuna, but they're really just kind of the waste catch - is that what's happening?
IC: They are and they aren't. So even though fishing vessels can go out and they target species like Tuna, you can set your fishing so that you do catch sharks. Even though specifically you may not say you're targeting sharks. So you can fish for certain species even though you can say you're not fishing for them. So yeah, not many countries do specifically target them. But a lot of sharks, especially in the pacific are caught. It's a huge sort of issue that differs from country to country, from regional water throughout the the Pacific so...
IS: Right, and how do you monitor that even?
IC: This is probably the biggest issue that we're facing in the offshore industries. Monitoring what's happening on board the vessels is very very difficult so the monitoring of compliance to the rules is a huge issue and also in small countries like Palau, like Fiji - coastal fisheries. You've got very very disperse countries with small islands and small communities. It's very very hard for a small government with an under capacity fisheries department to go out and see what's happening.
IS: What are the rates of decline in terms of sharks and the ray species that are being threatened in the region's waters? Do you know?
IC: Well, last year the International Union for conservation of nature - their shark specialist group did a study, a global study on all sharks and rays. And roughly a quarter are threatened with extinction. And also what was also a key finding for us was almost half of all sharks and rays - there's no data. There's absolutely zero data on if the populations are healthy, if they're overfished, if they're underfished, nothing. So it's tyring to manage shark populations, especially in the Pacific, when the big issues is the lack of data. This is why we're getting countries to bakc what we're doing, where the more momentum we can get of Islands in the Pacific to rejoin up to focus we're we can assist them, we should start making progress. We can start making progress straight away. With a lack of data even getting small amounts of data is progress.
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