This page was up during the campaign and described what we were proposing, as well as give links to more information. It is still interesting to read, although now parts are out of date.

Goal

To work with local communities and government officials in creating a sanctuary for sharks in all territorial waters surrounding the Cook Islands (about 2 million square km)

What is a shark sanctuary

What we are proposing is first and foremost, a ban on the commercial fishing of shark. In order to effectively help shark populations reach their once pristine state and to ensure there are no loopholes for companies to continue to fish for sharks.

We’d also like to ban the sale, trade and possession of shark products and require that any shark caught accidentally (as by-catch) be released in the manner which affords the animal the best chance for survival. To reduce the number of sharks caught as bycatch, we are asking the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources to ban the use of trace wire (a type of fishing gear used to target sharks because the wire is too thick for sharks to bite free).

To recap, a shark sanctuary means

1. Ban on commercial fishing of sharks
2. Ban on sale, trade, and possession of shark products on commercial longliners
3. Permit zero retention of sharks or shark fins as a result of bycatch (let sharks go!)

To be successful, we must have these three things written in enforceable regulations, which would also ban the use of trace wire and require that sharks be released in a way that ensures them the best chance of survival.

Why sharks need protection

Shark populations are declining at unsustainable rates, mainly due to increasing demand for their fins, but other threats include demand for shark meat and shark products, such as chondroitin. Sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few offspring, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from decline.

Most recent published data (Clarke, et al. 2003) on the number of sharks killed for Asian fin trade were from a study conducted between October 1999-March 2001 in Hong Kong. They estimated that 38 million sharks (that number could range from as low as 26 million to as high as 73 million) lost their fins per year to the Hong Kong trade.

This paper was able to show that a far larger number of sharks are being caught every year than current databases indicate and that acknowledging that even a very productive species like the blue shark, is being caught at levels close to or possibly exceeding the maximum sustainable yield.


It is important to note that 38 million sharks reference in the Clarke paper pertains only to sharks whose fins were traded through the Hong Kong market- this does not include Japanese, Spanish or Indonesian markets, for example.

The scientific community lacks data necessary to determine if certain species can be fished at sustainable rates.

Sharks hold a special place of reverence in many Cook Islands legends, including the placement of Ina and the shark on the Cook Islands $3 note.

The National Heritage Trust’s biodiversity database shows 18 species of sharks present in the Cook Islands. (This number is likely to increase as education of proper shark identification increases for observers). Below is a table of known shark species in Cook Islands waters, with IUCN Red List Status showing that 15 of the 18 known species are threatened with extinction.

IUCN Redlist categories:

-Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered categories mean there is enough data to say the species is threatened with extinction in the wild.
-Near Threatened category means they may soon be threatened with extinction.
-Least Concern category means that these species are not in danger of extinction.
-Data Deficient categories means there is not enough data to make conclusive category assignment.

Sharks present in Cook Islands waters IUCN Red List Category IUCN Population Trend Status
Scalloped Hammerhead Endangered decreasing
Oceanic White Tip Vulnerable decreasing
Great Hammerhead(**) Endangered decreasing
Whale Shark Vulnerable decreasing
Pelagic Thresher Vulnerable decreasing
Common Thresher (**) Vulnerable decreasing
Shortfin Mako Vulnerable decreasing
Longfin Mako (**) Vulnerable decreasing
Silky Near Threatened decreasing
Black Tip Reef Near Threatened decreasing
Blue Near Threatened decreasing
Tiger Near Threatened decreasing
Bluntnose Sixgill Near Threatened decreasing
Silvertip Near Threatened decreasing
Grey Reef Near Threatened decreasing
Galapagos Near Threatened decreasing
Prickly Near Threatened decreasing
Lemon Near Threatened unknown
Cookiecutter Least Concern unknown
Nurse Data Deficient Data Deficient
White Tip Reef Data Deficient Data Deficient


(**) presence highly likely due to observer data, but not yet positively identified

The scientific community lacks data necessary to determine if certain species can be fished at sustainable rates.

In the Cook Islands, there are no regulations in place against keeping any shark caught as by-catch in nets or on longliners. While no commercial shark fishing permits exist in the Cook Islands, there are commercial fishing (tuna or other) licenses for vessels from Fiji, Vanuatu, China and Taiwan- nations known for shark fishing and shark finning.

At present, the Cook Islands government lacks the resources to place observers on every boat and without regulations or punitive measures, there remains no impetus for any nation to release any shark caught as by-catch. In addition, legislation protecting sharks and making the possession of shark material illegal would have the effect of supporting current fisheries laws and give enforcement agencies a broader scope, as they battle the huge burden of illegal fishing in the Cook Islands waters.

The establishment of a Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary would, at a minimum:

• Ban commercial fishing of sharks
• Permit zero retention of sharks or shark fins as a result of by-catch
• Ban sale, trade and possession of shark

Please support our efforts to convince the government that a Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary is both necessary and essential to the survival of these vulnerable creatures.

For more information on how you can help, contact Programme Manager Jess Cramp: jess@picionline.org

Check us out on facebook: www.facebook.com/picionline

PICI is 100% volunteer. If you are able, please donate to the cause.

“NOT IN THE COOKS”

[photo- hammerheads in nets….finless]

 

Please support our efforts to convince the government that a Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary is both necessary and essential to the survival of these vulnerable creatures.

For more information on how you can help, contact Programme Manager Jess Cramp: jess@picionline.org
Check us out on facebook:
www.facebook.com/picionline


PICI is 100% volunteer. If you are able, please donate to the cause.

Kids at a fundraising and awareness event making shark fins and showing their support for shark conservation

Where you can learn more about other shark conservation efforts:

http://www.sharksanctuary.com/

http://www.pewenvironment.org/campaigns/global-shark-conservation/


http://www.wildaid.org/sharks


http://saveourseas.com/


http://www.sharkdefenders.com/


http://www.bite-back.com/


http://www.sharks.org/


http://www.sharktrust.org/


http://www.saveoursharks.com.au/


http://www.sharkalliance.org/

Links to media on Shark Sanctuaries and Ban of Shark Fins:

Palau Creates World’s First Shark Sanctuary:
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/environment/2009-09-25-palau-shark-sanctuary_N.htm

Tokelau Declares Shark Sanctuary:
http://sharkyear.com/2011/tokelau-declares-shark-sanctuary.html

Maldives Ban Fishing of Sharks:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/world/asia/10iht-shark.html

Shark Fishing Banned in the Bahamas:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14040902


Honduras Creates a Shark Sanctuary:
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/24/honduras-creates-a-shark-sanctuary/

Marshall Islands Declares World’s Largest Shark Sanctuary:
http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/03/marshall-islands-declares-world’s-largest-shark-sanctuary/

Northern Mariana Islands Passes Shark Fin Ban Legislation:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/northern-mariana-islands-passes-shark-fin-ban-legislation-114689139.html


Mexico Will Ban Shark Fishing as Global Movement Grows:

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/09/23/23greenwire-mexico-will-ban-shark-fishing-as-global-sanctu-29510.html


California Shark Fin Ban Signed into Law:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44824633/ns/us_news/t/california-shark-fin-ban-signed-law/

Oregon Joins Fight Against Shark Finning:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/08/shark-finning-ban-oregon.html


Toronto Bans Shark Fin:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/10/25/shark-fin-ban-vote.html

Washington State Passes Shark Fin Ban:
http://www.sharkdefenders.com/2011/05/washington-state-passes-shark-fin-ban.html

Shark Finning Banned in Guam:
http://www.care2.com/causes/shark-finning-ban-in-guam.html



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