Fiji creates history

FIJI created history by becoming the first Pacific Island country to propose global trade restrictions on rays and sharks to ensure their survival.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) global shark program manager and technical adviser to the Fiji delegation, Ian Campbell said this was after representatives from Fiji participated in the Conservation of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in South Africa earlier this month.

“Getting the Ddevil rays, a threatened species of mobula rays, protected from unsustainable trade is a fantastic achievement, and the Government of Fiji must be praised for their leadership and commitment on this important global stage,” Mr Campbell said.

“Sharks and rays are not only vital for the critical roles they play in the environment and fisheries, but they are a central pillar in Pacific Island cultures, not just in Fiji, but throughout the South Pacific.

“Devil rays are under threat from overfishing, where they are caught for their gill plates, which are prized in Asian markets for unproven medicinal purposes.”

Ministry of Fisheries official Aisake Batibasaga led the delegation and said it was an achievement to receive global support to protect the species.

“Rays and sharks are very important to Fiji in terms of culture, traditions, spiritual heritage, and eco-tourism, based on these marine mega-fauna, are gaining a lot of momentum across the Pacific,” Mr Batibasaga said.

“It is vital Fiji takes a stand to protect these natural assets from unsustainable trade as we have a thriving shark and ray diving industry, which is being threatened by overfishing.”