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Friday, April 25, 2014

Kosrae joins effort to create massive shark sanctuary
Two million-square-mile regional protected area within reach

Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed by people, largely for their fins to supply the demand for shark fin soup. (SHAWN HEINRICH) KOSRAE, Federated States of Micronesia—Kosrae has become the first member of the Federated States of Micronesia to establish shark protections in its waters. The unanimous vote by the legislature in Kosrae, a small island of 7,700 people in the Pacific, is an important step in the creation of the world’s first regional shark sanctuary, which will encompass 2 million square miles of ocean. The legislation now heads to Gov. Lyndon Jackson’s desk for signature.

“The protection of sharks fits into an even larger conservation goal for Micronesia,” said Gov. Lyndon Jackson. “This goal, called the Micronesia Challenge, seeks to effectively conserve 30 percent of nearshore resources. But some species, especially sharks, swim in and out of protected areas, so additional policies are needed.”

When signed into law, the Kosrae sanctuary will ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark products in Kosrea and prohibit commercial shark fishing in the 12-mile area under its jurisdiction. Sen. Tulensa Palik, vice chairman of the state’s Committee on Resources and Development, introduced the bill.

“This is an extremely important piece of legislation,” said Palik. “I am proud to have Kosrae be a part of a global movement to protect sharks and the health of our ocean.”

During the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit in July 2011, Jackson and other leaders pledged to join a much larger effort to create the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary. The agreement includes all four members of the Federated States of Micronesia—Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae—as well as the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. It will result in a regional sanctuary covering 2 million square miles.

“Micronesia is leading the world in shark conservation,” said Jill Hepp, director of shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Kosrae is an important piece in the puzzle to protect sharks in the region.”

“Conservation has always been an integral part of life in Kosrae,” said Andy George, executive director of the Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization. “This is something our people wanted.”

Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed by people, largely for their fins to supply the demand for shark fin soup. Of the 150 species of shark assessed as Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 30 are known to swim in Micronesia’s waters, including scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, oceanic whitetips, and several species of reef sharks

If the other members of the Federated States of Micronesia move forward with their plan to create a sanctuary in the next year, 2.9 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) will be added to the more than 4.7 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of ocean worldwide that have already been protected by six shark sanctuaries: Palau, the Maldives, Tokelau, Honduras, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands. (Pew Environment Group)

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