POHNPEI—Lawmakers from Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae and national government of the Federated States of Micronesia met this week to discuss the development of legislation to protect sharks in their territorial waters.
In advance of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures meeting, state leaders shared updates on local efforts to create measures to protect sharks in the region. The Kosrae Legislature passed a bill banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark/commercial shark fishing in all waters under state control, which Gov. Lyndon Jackson signed into law in October.
“I am proud to have Kosrae take this first step to protect sharks and the health of our ocean,” said Sen. Tulensa Palik, vice chairman of the state’s Committee on Resources and Development who introduced the bill. “It is important now for the national government to join us to protect sharks and the health of our ocean.”
In Chuuk, a similar shark conservation bill is now before the governor for signature, according to Sen. Stephen Nelson. Yap is also drafting shark protections and Pohnpei has committed to introducing legislation to protect sharks in early January.
Shark protections have already been established in the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. Once all four members of the Federated States of Micronesia—Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae—as well as the national government have passed their laws, it will result in a regional sanctuary covering 2 million square miles.
Implementation of the Palau and Marshall Islands sanctuaries has already begun with marine enforcement trainings held in Majuro in September and Palau in November. The trainings included a hands-on tactical workshop and encouraged collaboration between government agencies charged with enforcing marine conservation laws.
Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primarily for their fins. Sharks, which grow slowly, mature late and produce few young during their lifetimes, have difficulty recovering from overfishing and depletion. These apex predators, living at the top of the food web, are key to maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems.
“NGOs are working collaboratively with state partners in conducting both public awareness and biological monitoring of sharks,” said Eugene Joseph, executive director of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei. “CSP and partners recently completed a shark tagging project in partnership with University of Guam. We found that where sharks are present, coral reef ecosystem is healthy.”
“We applaud the leaders of Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap for their continued commitment to shark conservation,” said Liz Karan, manager of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign. “Micronesia is an important piece in the puzzle to protect sharks in the region.”
This meeting comes as delegates from 25 countries meet in Manila for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. To date WCPFC has not taken comprehensive action to protect sharks so individual countries are moving forward to protect their ocean resources, declaring shark sanctuaries. (PR)