Friday, June 14, 2013

Micronesian States Vote to Declare Shark Sanctuaries

Yap State includes two dozen coral atolls and raised coral islands stretching across approximately 800 kilometers (500 miles) of Western Pacific Ocean.
Great news from The Pew Charitable Trusts:

Pohnpei and Yap, two of the Federated States of Micronesia, or FSM, are moving to declare their waters shark sanctuaries. Each state’s senate has voted to ban the fishing, sale, trade, and possession of sharks within its waters. The governors of each—John Ehsa of Pohnpei and Sebastian Anefal of Yap—are expected to sign the measures into law. With these new shark protections in place, Chuuk would be the only FSM state to allow shark fishing.

Angelo Villagomez of The Pew Charitable Trusts with Mary Linda Salvador and Eugene Joseph of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei.
“The senators and community members who worked for two years on these laws are to be commended for taking this important step in protecting sharks,” said Angelo Villagomez, a shark conservation expert with The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Yap and Pohnpei are critical for ending the unsustainable fishing of sharks in the Pacific.”

The islands of Pohnpei are ringed by coral reefs.  Sharks play an important role in maintaining healthy reefs.  Protections allows sharks to fill their ecological niche as apex predators, helping to maintain ocean health.
These actions by the two states move the region a step closer to the creation of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which would prohibit commercial fishing of sharks across a swath of ocean nearly as large as the European Union. The effort began at a 2011 meeting of the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit. There, the governors and presidents of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands agreed to create contiguous sanctuaries across the islands’ exclusive economic zones. Once Chuuk and the national government of the FSM implement their sanctuaries, the regional sanctuary will stretch across about 6.5 million square kilometers (2.5 million square miles) of the Pacific.

The Federated States of Micronesia patrol their waters and regularly arrest illegal fishing vessels.  This vessel was apprehended for fishing without its VMS
To help in enforcement of shark protections, the Federated States of Micronesia has signed a “shiprider” pact with the United States that allows its officers to conduct fisheries enforcement with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard. The Pew Charitable Trusts also helps conduct enforcement trainings for governments that have banned commercial fishing for sharks.

Map: Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary
Note: Once Chuuk and the national government of the Federated States of Micronesia implement a sanctuary, the regional sanctuary will stretch across about 6.5 million square kilometers (2.5 square miles) of Pacific Ocean.


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