Samoa has announced a shark sanctuary within its 128,000 sq km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), making it the eighth Pacific island country to designate its national waters as a protected sanctuary for all sharks and rays.
The launch was commemorated with ministers and officials now in Samoa for the very first Pacific Shark Ministerial Symposium held 1-2 March.
The Exclusive Economic Zone of a country is the designated area of coastal water and seabed within a country’s coastline defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, to which a nation claims sovereign rights for exclusive rights for all marine and economic resources and activities and so forth under the surface of the sea. The UN Convention is an international agreement that more than 160 countries have signed.
“We will not sit idly by while the demand for shark products robs our future generations of these culturally, ecologically and economically valuable species. Let us together continue to safeguard these species for our future generations,” said the Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Tuila’epa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi.
“Samoa’s shark sanctuary will be a platform in the global community to promote conservation awareness. We as island leaders have been charged with the protection and sustainable development of the region’s marine environment,” said the Hon Prime Minister Tuila’epa.
“Not only will the complete ban of commercial fishing, sale and trade for all sharks and rays in our waters provide much needed relief to declining populations, it will also help prevent further degradation to the health of our oceans and continue to draw tourists for a chance to experience these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.”
Samoa’s announcement increases the total area in established as shark sanctuaries in the Pacific islands to an estimated 17 million square kilometres.
This consists of the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Samoa.
The establishment of the Samoa shark sanctuary is another example of the country’s leadership in the Pacific.
In October last year, Samoa successfully lobbied for the inclusion of blue sharks on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species. The blue shark is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List and it is estimated that over 20 million blue sharks are caught annually.
Pacific unity was in display as Samoa announced their shark sanctuary, with New Caledonia offering to share their experiences as a shark sanctuary with all Pacific islands.
“As Minister of Sustainable Development, Ecology and Custom Affairs…I congratulate all stakeholders who have been involved in this great effort. It is great news, for Samoa, for sharks and the Pacific Ocean. It is a new piece in the Pacific puzzle, providing a safe ocean for these species of immense conservation and cultural values,” said Mr Poidyaliwane.
These words of congratulations were also echoed by the Pew Charitable Trusts who, with SPREP, presented the gift of a shark carving to the Prime Minister of Samoa in commemoration of this special announcement.
“By establishing a shark sanctuary; countries like Samoa, make it clear that these top predators are vulnerable and warrant the same status of protection. Samoa has placed itself at the forefront of shark and ray conservation, not only in the region, but worldwide and we look forward to continuing this partnership,” said Ms Jennifer Sawada, Director of Global Shark Conservation of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The announcement of the Samoa Shark Sanctuary was made on 1 March, 2018.
It comes on day one of the Pacific Shark Ministerial Symposium 2018, a partnership between Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme based in Apia, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Government of Samoa, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Paul. G Allen Philanthropies.