The Pacific nation of Palau has created the world’s first officially-recognized shark sanctuary, a biological sanctuary to protect great hammerheads, leopard sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and more than 130 other species fighting extinction in the Pacific Ocean.
Johnson Toribiong, president of the island republic, said , “Palau will become the world’s first national shark sanctuary, ending all commercial shark fishing in our waters and giving a sanctuary for sharks to live and reproduce unmolested in our 237,000 square miles of ocean.”
President Toribiong’s announcement on the commercial shark-fishing ban came on September 25, 2009 at the United Nations General Assembly. He comments, “The strength and beauty of sharks are a natural barometer for the health of our oceans.”
During his address, President Toribiong called for a global ban on shark-finning and rallied for other nations to join the cause. Through his actions, along with those of the Palau Shark Sanctuary, President Toribiong has put Palau on the map in terms of global efforts to protect sharks.
Some might ask, “What is the motivation behind President Toribiong’s initiatives and his efforts to call upon support of these world-wide efforts?” Shark populations are in danger of demise because of limited protective measures, to date. As a matter of fact, shark fishing has grown rapidly since the mid-1980s, because of the rising demand for shark fin soup, a highly coveted expression of wealth. Sharks, in general, have a long life span and low fertility rates, which makes them vulnerable to extinction.
As a result, Palau formally established a protective zone to help preserve the predatory fish by protecting its 135 Western Pacific species of sharks and rays, considered endangered or vulnerable.
Dermot Keane, of the Palau Shark Sanctuary, “(We) Deeply commend President Toribiong for his international leadership in global efforts to protect sharks.” Keane continues, “We are very proud of President Toribiong and of Palau on this momentous occasion.”
Palau Shark Sanctuary was founded in 2001 in an effort to end the annihilation of Palau's sharks, which come as a result of rampant shark-finning at the hands of foreign long-line fishing vessels licensed by Palau to fish in their waters. Palau Shark Sanctuary seeks a declaration by Palau to establish the waters of Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone as a sanctuary for all sharks.
For more information about President Toribiong’s initiatives and the Palau Shark Sanctuary’s efforts, visit www.sharksanctuary.com. For those interested in speaking directly with the shark preservation activists in Palau, contact Dermot Keane of Palau Shark Sanctuary at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tova Harel Bornovski of Micronesia Shark Foundation at email@example.com.