Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Fiji Times: Support for Shark Sanctuary

Photo taken from the back of the public hearing as things were just getting started.  Another 50 people piled into the room as the meeting progressed.  At one point 114 people were counted in the room at one time.  More photos are available on Facebook and Flickr.
The Fiji Times has more sharky news this morning.  There were also several letters to the editor published today.  The story discusses yesterday's public consultation:
FIJI Tuna Boat Owners Association director Russell Dunham says tuna boat operators have no interest in catching sharks and fully support a ban on the shark fin trade.

He made the comments in defence of allegations from shark conservationists that tuna boat operators were still involved in the catching of sharks for their fins, whether deliberately or not.

Sharks are being caught for their fins by tuna boats, sometimes deliberately or as by-catch, and by coastal anglers and then sent to China through Hong Kong for its lucrative fin trade.

Organised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests in Suva, the consultation was held to get public and stakeholder feedback on proposed legislation to turn Fiji's 1.2million-square-kilometre Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) into a shark sanctuary.

The Police Sharks show up in uniform to support shark protections.  More photos are available on Facebook and Flickr.
Researcher Helen Sykes, who has been leading the conservation campaign, said a total ban on shark fishing would ensure their protection and safeguard the marine ecosystem.

Mr Dunham said making Fiji's EEZ a shark sanctuary was unnecessary and suggested shark sanctuaries be identified instead of a national ban on shark fishing.

While he agreed sharks were crucial in the balance of the marine ecosystem, he denied association members specifically targeted sharks and highlighted the lack of control of inshore fishermen who, he said, were exploiting marine stocks, including coastal sharks. "We will catch sharks, whether we like it or not. Do not blame long line fishermen for the decline in sharks, just control inshore fishing."

Shark advocates, scientists, conservationists and tourism operators rejected the proposal from the tuna operators, saying a partial ban or legislation would still leave loopholes fishermen could exploit.
The entire world continues to show interest in Fiji's bid to create Melanesia's first national shark sanctuary.  An incredible six letters were published today in the Fiji Times, coming from as far away as Australia, Canada, and the United States:
Mistaken belief
Many people mistakenly believe sharks are somehow bad or dangerous. They are key top-down controllers of healthy ecosystems, and we have a better chance of winning the lottery (1 in 175 million) than we do of being killed by a shark (1 in 264 million). In fact, sharks have a great deal more to fear from us. Over 70 million are killed every year, mostly for their fins, and many populations have declined over 90 per cent in the last few decades.  Whatever the cause of their decline, it's clear sharks need our help if they are to remain a symbol of the power and purity of life in the oceans and continue to fulfil their critical ecological roles.  As an oceanic nation, Fiji has a fantastic opportunity to do more for shark conservation than most nations by declaring a shark sanctuary in its waters. The eyes of the global conservation community are on Fiji as we watch with anticipation the outcomes of the public consultation session regarding this proposal. My sincere hope is that Fiji embraces a leadership role to show the rest of the world an example of how we can protect and live alongside sharks. Vinaka vakelevu.
Ecosystem essentials
Please assure sharks around Fiji are protected. They are essential to the ecosystem.  For the economy, it is important to have marine reserves and safeguard the beautiful ocean environment we tourists love.  Many of my friends and family and myself want to visit Fiji and one important reason is the marine life and sharks. Thank you for helping protect marine life and the beautiful shark.

Sharks alive
I do not live in Fiji, I live in Florida, USA and I am a professional scuba diver working in the dive industry. I book trips to take divers all around the world and the number one thing people want to see under water are sharks, live sharks.  I want to run trips to Fiji to come see the sharks of Fiji so please consider helping protect sharks, especially the sharks of Fiji. Thank you for your time.
Nikole Ordway

Next holiday
I have never been to Fiji for a holiday, and truthfully I wasn't quite sure what is it that set Fiji apart from many other tourist destinations in the tropics.  However upon hearing the plans for a Fijian shark sanctuary, I know exactly where my next holiday will be!  It is so crucial that we act now to help save sharks. They are one of the ocean's apex predators, they control much of the ecosystem in the ocean, and if sharks are wiped out the consequences would be disastrous. Having sanctuaries for sharks is a wonderful way to help protect these brilliant animals.  I cannot wait to come to the Fiji shark sanctuary.

Important protection
I am writing to you to express my sincere concerns and unwavering support for shark protections because sharks are not only magnificent creatures that are on the brink of extinction because of mankind's selfish and greedy actions, but they are undoubtedly an important part of the ecosystems that are vital to our survival as human beings and the survival of our beautiful oceans.  I am a scuba diver and marine enthusiast and I travel only to countries that protect sharks so please visiting Fiji would be on my next list if shark protections are in place.  Please, I beg of you consider how important shark protections are.

Reason for couple's trip
I am writing to support the idea of establishing a shark sanctuary in Fiji waters. I am a diver who lives in Hawaii, but I travel quite a bit.  My husband and I have been to Fiji more than once. We enjoyed your reefs and marine animals, but would be more likely to return if the sharks were protected and more plentiful.  This year we travelled to Palau to see the sharks in their sanctuary. It was a wonderful experience. We are also going to the Bahamas this year, again, the reason for the trip is to see sharks.  I am confident that we are just two among thousands of divers and travellers who look for places to see these magnificent underwater creatures. Fiji should be one of these places.  The value of a shark, over its lifetime, is far greater as a "tourist attraction" than the life-ending value of its fin for soup. Please consider the environment and your long-term economy when you are in the process of making this very important decision.
Kailua Kona
Thank you for your continued support.  To stay up to date with the lastest way to support the Fiji government, take the Fiji Shark Defenders Pledge.

Support for Shark Sanctuary and letters to the editor published in The Fiji Times on Thursday, May 3, 2012.


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