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shark sanctuary

Protecting Shark Populations: Shark Sanctuaries

In 2009, Palau became the first nation in the world to establish a national shark sanctuary. There are now 17 shark sanctuaries around the globe where sharks are seen for their value in the ocean environment. In general, shark sanctuaries prevent:

  • commercial fishing of any sharks
  • retention of sharks caught as bycatch
  • possession, trade, and sale of any shark or shark product

The Bahamas established it’s shark sanctuary in 2011, covering all territorial waters of the island nation. In total, it’s an area of nearly 243 thousand square miles.

bahamas shark sanctuary

The Bahamas established it’s shark sanctuary in 2011, covering all territorial waters of the island nation. In total, it’s an area of nearly 243 thousand square miles.

In 2015, nations and territories in the western Pacific Ocean joined together to create the world’s first regional shark sanctuary in Micronesia. Together, this sanctuary protects 7.5 million square miles (19.4 million square kilometers) of ocean !

Because of the role that sharks play in maintaining ocean health, protecting them with sanctuaries provides ecosystem, environmental, cultural, and economic benefits.

The PEW Charitable Trusts

Read and download the Shark Sanctuaries of the World PDF from PEW

bahamas shark sanctuary

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary – advancing shark conservation

The Bahamas shark sanctuary was created in July of 2011 by adding an amendment to the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act (Chapter 244). The amendment created shark protections throughout all the territorial waters of the Bahamas, over 650,000 square kilometers of ocean. It was a major win for sharks, who already benefit from the long-line ban of 1992. The Bahamas has long history of valuing sharks, recognizing the large amount of revenue through shark specific ecotourism. Here’s what the amendment says:

  1.  Citation.

These Regulations, which amend the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Regulations, may be cited as the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Amendment) Regulations, 2011.

  1.  Insertion of new PART VA into the principal Regulations. 

The principal Regulations are amended by the insertion immediately after Regulation 36, of the new PART VA as follows-

PART VA

SHARK

36A. Prohibition on possessing, fishing for or landing shark or shark parts.

Subject to Regulation 36D, no person shall possess, fish for or land, any shark or shark parts with.in The Bahamas or within the Exclusive Fishery Zone ofThe Bahamas.

36B. Prohibition on the sale of shark, shark parts or shark products.

No person shall sell any shark, shark parts or shark products within The Bahamas or within the Exclusive Fishery Zone of The Bahamas.

36C. Prohibition on export or import of shark, shark parts or shark products.

Subject to Regulation 36D, no person shall export from, or import into, The Bahamas–

(a) any shark;
(b) shark parts; or
(c) shark products.

36D. Permit to fish for, possess or export any shark or shark parts for educational, scientific or research purposes.

(1) A person who wishes to fish for, have in his possession or export any shark or shark parts for educational, scientific or research purposes, shall apply to the Minister for a permit.
(2) An application made under paragraph (1), shall be made in the manner set out in Form 19A in the First Schedule.
(3) Where the Minister approves an application made under paragraph (1), he shall issue a permit as set out in Form 20A of the First Schedule, specifying the terms and conditions of the approval including the payment of fees as specified in the Third Schedule

36E. Catch and release of sharks.

A person who hooks or catches a shark while fishing shall promptly release the shark into the sea unharmed.”.

We’re obviously very excited to work in a sanctuary where sharks are protected and valued.  There’s certainly work to be done and as with any new regulations, it will take time and proper enforcement to effect change.

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

bahamas shark sanctuary

bahamas shark sanctuary

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary 5th Anniversary

bnt bahamas national trust shark sanctuary

Epic Diving participates in town hall meeting with the Bahamas National Trust

Here’s a video put together by PEW back in 2011 when the Bahamas was working to establish a National Shark Sanctuary. The Bahamas has long been a safe haven for sharks since the Long Line ban of 1992. Over the past 20-30 years, shark populations have remained healthy and the nation has certainly experienced the benefits of shark tourism. We were proud to work alongside PEW and the Bahamas National Trust back in 2011 to raise public awareness and help pass the sanctuary!

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

Sharks are in trouble globally, and there are few locations where healthy shark populations still exist. In The Bahamas, a 20 year-old ban on longline fishing gear has left its waters as one of the few places in the world with relatively healthy shark populations. This has paid off for the small island nation. According to The Bahamas Diving Association, diving tourism has contributed up to $800 million to the Bahamian economy since the longline ban. There are, however, no laws there that specifically protect sharks. Pew is currently working with The Bahamas National Trust to gain permanent protections in all of The Bahamas’ Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 630,000 square kilometers of ocean. By establishing comprehensive protections for sharks, not only will sharks be permanently safeguarded against other threats, but the health of the marine environment and the economy of The Bahamas will be conserved for generations to come.

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

bahamas shark sanctuary

global shark sanctuaries map

New Shark Sanctuaries announced in the Caribbean

Exciting news this week as four new shark sanctuaries were announced for the Caribbean!  Both St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands decided to completely close their exclusive economic zones to commercial shark fishing.  The islands of Curacao and Grenada have also announced that they will follow suit and create legislation later this year to protect sharks in those regions.

“People from all over the world come to our island to dive and snorkel with our marine wildlife, including sharks and rays,” said Irania Arrindell, St. Maarten’s minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport, and telecommunications. “St. Maarten’s shark sanctuary will help to ensure that our local shark populations exist for future generations and continue to benefit St. Maarten’s marine ecosystem and ecotourism.”

The new shark sanctuaries cover a total of 46,190 square miles (119,631 square kilometers)!  The total number of shark sanctuaries in the Caribbean is now seven!

    • Honduras (est. 2011)
    • The Bahamas (est. 2011)
    • British Virgin Islands (est. 2014)
    • Bonaire (est. 2105)
    • Saba (est. 2015)
    • Cayman Islands (est. 2016)
    • St. Maarten (est. 2016)

The total number of shark sanctuaries worldwide is now fourteen, covering 6 million square miles!  In addition to the seven Caribbean shark sanctuaries, the remaining seven are:

    • Palau (est. 2009)
    • Maldives (est. 2010)
    • Marshall Islands (est. 2011)
    • Cook Islands (est. 2012)
    • French Polynesia (est. 2012)
    • New Caledonia (est. 2013)
    • Federated States of Micronesia (est. 2015)

global shark sanctuaries map

“Establishing sanctuaries to protect all sharks makes clear that these top predators warrant the same status as other vulnerable marine wildlife that help attract ecotourism, such as turtles and whales.”

It is so crucial that the attitudes and opinions of people and governments change and recognize the important role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.  Their protection is desperately needed to preserve a healthy ocean environment.

Take a look at the full press release from PEW here.

hammerhead sharks

New Galápagos Sanctuary Has World’s Highest Abundance of Sharks

Exciting news out of Ecuador! The Galapagos Islands will now have some protection against fishing.

galapagos sanctuary

Upon creation of the sanctuary, Correa said, “The Galápagos Islands have extraordinary ecological value, and also economic value. The government of Ecuador supports the creation of a marine sanctuary to leave an inheritance to our children and our children’s children; a wonderful world where as many species as possible are preserved for the enjoyment and knowledge of future generations.”

Read the full story from National Geographic here: New Galápagos Sanctuary Has World’s Highest Abundance of Sharks

dead tiger shark

BNT Speaks out against the Needless Killing of Sharks

From The Bahamas National Trust:

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has been made aware of the killing of a mature tiger shark in the Exuma Cays in early March. The BNT would like to remind the general public that the killing of sharks is currently illegal in The Bahamas. Although the BNT is sensitive to the needs to local people who may accidentally catch sharks and choose to consume it, the BNT does not condone the targeted culling and ruthless killing of such valuable, sentient beings. This shark was reportedly frequenting an area where stingrays were being fed. The targeted killing of this shark does not appear to be justified.

dead tiger shark
The Bahamas enjoys a great diversity and bounty of sharks, due to our relatively healthy marine environment, but these magnificent animals are considered threatened or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is due to the fact that sharks are heavily sought after for their fins for shark fin soup and similar products. In areas of the world where sharks were fished out, there have been complete shifts in the ecosystems that they had previously been the “Apex” predators of, and as a result, the decline of other fisheries meant that they too had to close. The role that these creatures play at the very top of their ecosystems, means that they are influencing the balance of everything beneath them in the food chain.

In The Bahamas, we actually economically benefit from having such healthy shark populations, as tourists travel here specifically to swim and dive with them every year. Shark tourism generates some $78M per year in The Bahamas, and is responsible for countless jobs across the entire country, including and especially dive shop employees. Many film and documentary makers also travel to The Bahamas in order to capture sharks on film, and when their movies reach others it is, in a sense, a form of marketing our sharks and our country. In simpler terms, a single, dead shark is worth only about $60 for its meat and organs, while a single, living shark is valued at $250,000 over its entire life time.

The BNT strongly condemns the the needless, intentional killing of sharks.

Map of the Bahamas

A win for shark protection proponents

GREAT news today! The government of the Bahamas agreed to pass legislation to prohibit the export of any shark or shark product from the Bahamas. Thanks to the Bahamas National Trust, PEW, Guy Harvey Research Institute, and all those who who supported this project. A special thanks to the local community on Cat Island for joining us at the meeting and signing the petition. It was an honor to be a part of this!

Read the full story here

bahamas shark sanctuary

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

C

elebrating one year since the government of the Bahamas announced that all commercial shark fishing in the approximately 630,000 square kilometers (243,244 square miles) of the country’s waters is now prohibited, establishing a national Bahamas Shark Sanctuary.

bahamas shark sanctuary

Sharks are now protected against commercial fishing in all the waters surrounding the Bahamas.

The Bahamas National Shark Sanctuary permanently protects more than 40 shark species in Bahamian waters.

bnt bahamas national trust bahamas shark sanctuary

Epic Diving participates in town hall meeting with the Bahamas National Trust

shark conservation bahamas shark sanctuary

Locals on Cat Island sign the petition to help establish the Bahamas National Sanctuary

Read more about the sanctuary on PEW’s website.

Thanks again to all those involved in this legislation!

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary