|Maile wants you to sign her petition.|
Local students from George Washington High School (GWHS) and Simon Sanchez High School (SSHS) are raising awareness of a federal attempt to overturn Guam’s shark conservation law. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is trying to preempt local shark conservation laws in 11 states and territories because they think the laws conflict with federal laws mandating optimum yield.
The students started an online petition that calls on NOAA and US President Barack Obama to cease attempts to undermine Guam’s local conservation laws. They further ask NOAA and the president to create a shark sanctuary.
The students wrote a script and filmed a video Hafa Adai, Mr. President to promote the petition.
“There are currently only nine shark sanctuaries worldwide,” explains Dolores, president of GWHS Marine Mania, in the video. “And we should be number ten.”
The petition started by students Maile Dolores, president of GWHS Marine Mania, and Makaelah Blas, member of SSHS Sharks MADE, has received over 2,000 signatures.
The efforts of the students have attracted the attention of several international conservation organizations. The Oceanic Preservation Society, Shark Savers, WildAid, Blue Sphere Foundation, The Manta Trust, Shark Defenders, Humane Society International, and Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation have promoted the protection of Guam’s shark conservation law on social networks in recent days.
“The world stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Guam,” said Canadian film director Rob Stewart, who visited Guam in 2011 to advocate for the law’s passage. “I hope the federal government realizes that sharks are important and that local people should have a say in how their local resources are managed.”
"Guam's shark fin law and others like it are critical to addressing the damaging ecological impacts of the shark fin trade,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid. "Attempts to overturn or weaken this law, which has the strong support of Guam's citizens and lawmakers and the US Congress, will only cause more harm to sharks by increasing trade."
“The young students in Guam have received international accolades for their passionate, tireless and inspirational advocacy for sharks,” said Iris Ho, wildlife program manager at Humane Society International. “Their engagement in public policy and ability to generate positive changes for our oceans have made Guam a progressive leader in the global shark conservation. We hope NOAA will respect and support the pleas from these youngsters.”
“People in the Pacific want to see sharks protected,” said Mike Coots, a surf photographer and member of Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation. “In Hawaii we are dealing with the same preemption issues and we stand united with our brothers and sisters in Guam to protect our sharks.”
"In 2011 the people of Guam took a decision to safeguard their natural heritage by passing tougher protective legislation for all sharks and ray within their territorial waters,” said Guy Stevens of The Manta Trust. “Sharks and rays have never been more threatened globally - time is running out to protect these vulnerable and economically valuable species for the future benefit of all.”
“The students on Guam continue to inspire, and they promise that the future of Guam is going to green and blue,” said Blue Sphere Foundation featured artist Shawn Heinrichs. “Guam is ahead of the rest of the world in coming to realize that sharks aren’t like other fish.”
GWHS Marine Mania and SSHS Shark MADE are well known for their shark conservation advocacy. In 2011, they successfully lobbied the Guam Senate to ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin. Last year they called on Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to protect manta rays and five species of sharks.
Senator Questions Federal Agency
Recent court ruling conflicts with NOAA interpretation in Guam
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to preempt local shark conservation laws in 11 states and territories because they think the laws conflict with federal laws mandating optimum yield.
|Senator BJ Cruz with students from Simon Sanchez High School|
“The federal court determined that optimum yield needs to take into account social, economic, and ecological factors as well as fishing.” Cruz explained. “Here in Guam, that equates to our people, our tourism, and our reefs, and they are more important to us than a shark fishery.”
Cruz is thankful for the attention Guam receives for its conservation efforts.
“When we’ve got kids protesting in the streets to protect sharks and the ocean, it tells the world that Guam is a green destination,” said Cruz.
Cruz also explained that the federal government has already exempted California, Oregon, and Washington from preemption.
“My colleagues in the Legislature are hopeful that the federal government will respect us like they did the states and let our law stand,” said Cruz.
About 100 million sharks are killed each year and as a result more than half of all sharks and shark-like species are estimated to be threatened or near threatened with extinction. In recent years, starting with Palau’s creation of the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, governments have implemented strong measures to protect sharks. Eleven US states and territories have banned the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin, while 9 countries and overseas territories have created shark sanctuaries, collectively protecting sharks in an area about 12.6 million square kilometers, which is about the size of the United States and Mexico combined.