Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pohnpei Shark Week

Guest Blog
by Willy Kostka

From April 1st to the 7th, Pohnpei will be celebrating Shark Week. These celebrations are part of the Global Shark Campaign spearheaded by the Pew Environment Group and the Micronesia Shark Sanctuary Campaign headed by the Chief Executives of Micronesia. At their Micronesia Chief Executives’ Meeting in Pohnpei from July 25-28, 2011, the Chief Executives passed a resolution authorizing the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, offer for sale and trade of shark fins in the Oceans of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the US Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (Micronesia). The resolution also calls for the establishment of a strategic framework in order to implement a marine based conservation program of action that will establish the world’s first and biggest regional shark sanctuary in Micronesia by December 2012.

The Republic of Palau was the first nation in the world to declare itself a shark sanctuary. Since then the US Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have all passed laws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and other shark parts. FSM has several bills introduced at the state levels and a resolution at the national level calling for the establishment of shark protection laws.
Film screening in Pohnpei on April 5. Photo Credit: Michael Ramsey
The Pew Environmental Group is working with the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) to support shark awareness and protection campaigns in the Federated States of Micronesia through MCT’s local partner organizations. The Pohnpei State Government and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) are now leading the campaign in Pohnpei. As part of these campaigns, MCT along Pohnpei State, CSP and others are working with a couple of professional videographers to develop a shark movie to be played on an outdoor screen at the Spanish Wall Park from April 5-7th.

Film screening in Pohnpei on April 5. Photo Credit: Michael Ramsey
Why sharks? Sharks are apex predators that help to keep a balance in our marine ecosystems by weeding out the weak and sick fish and other marine creatures, ensuring that only the genes from strong and healthy fish and marine creatures are passed on. This is very similar to the way Pohnpeians or Pacific islanders take care of their crops, most especially their breadfruits. Farmers have to manage their breadfruits by constantly picking off the fruits that have disease so they don’t destroy the whole lot. A few spoiled or invested breadfruits can destroy an entire lot from a tree. By picking out the invested breadfruits, they ensure that the rest are saved and remain healthy/survive for longer periods. This is the same role sharks play on our reefs.

Willy Kostka is a 2006 Pew Marine Fellow and the executive director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust

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