FIJI will play a key role in restoring shark populations in the South Pacific.
This was one of the messages from a manager at Pew Charitable Trusts, Angelo Villagomez, who said Fiji, as a party to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), would be an important part of a shark conservation conference which begins today in Nadi.
"This meeting, sponsored by the Department of Environment, Pew, and the Coral Reef Alliance, will help the Pacific parties to the CITES convention, including Fiji, implement the new protections for oceanic whitetip and three species of hammerhead sharks," Mr Villagomez explained yesterday.
"As a member of CITES, Fiji will have to issue non-detriment findings and prove that trade is sustainable in order to continue trade in these species."
When asked about the threat posed by fishermen catching sharks as bycatch, Mr Villagomez said there was a danger in referring to the sharks as "bycatch" because it was often done purposefully.
"Fishermen who are licensed to catch tuna will often catch sharks as 'bycatch'. This bycatch is often targeted, it is a wanted catch and has value.
"Targeting sharks is done by using gear designed to catch sharks, such as wire leaders and 'shark lines', short wires attached to buoys on longlines."
The two-day conference will see participants from around the South Pacific come together to discuss potential conservation methods.