FIJIANS should stand by neighbours in the central Pacific to ensure long-lasting protection for sharks, says Sharkman Manoa Rasigatale. The veteran campaigner made the plea as the Republic of the Marshall Islands became home to the largest shark sanctuary in the world last week.
The Marshall Islands joins Palau, Honduras, Tokelau, the Maldives, and the Bahamas in prohibiting the commercial fishing of sharks in their nation's waters.
Its new legislation officially bans the commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,530 square kilometres of the Marshall Islands waters, an area equivalent to the size of Mexico.
"Fiji is home to a high diversity of sharks and many of these species are threatened with extinction globally," said Mr Rasigatale, a member of CORAL's Fiji shark sanctuary campaign team.
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), in partnership with the Pew Environment Group and the Fijian Department of Fisheries, is championing new legislation for Fiji. Through a targeted campaign determined to raise local support for a designated shark sanctuary, the team is educating communities in Fiji about the importance of sharks to both their history and their economy.
"We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for recognising the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans," said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for Pew, in a statement.
"The momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe, creating greater areas where they can thrive without the threats of commercial fishing."
CORAL said, in a press statement, that it was determined to raise local support for a designated shark sanctuary.
The Department of Fisheries is expected to draft legislation soon to make Fiji the first Melanesian country to approve comprehensive protection for sharks before the end of the year.
Up to 73 million sharks are specially killed annually for their fins, a much sought-after delicacy in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
* To learn more about the efforts to declare a shark sanctuary in Fiji's waters, visit: www.coral.org/fijisharks