Maldivian Ministry Bans Reef Shark Fishing
The ministry of fisheries and agriculture has extended the moratorium on reef shark fishing to cover the territorial waters of the Maldives, as part of a historic move towards a total ban on both reef and oceanic shark hunting.
A ten-year moratorium was imposed in 1998 to cover the seven atolls where tourism had been established on the assumption that many tourists visited the Maldives to see sharks.
But with the spread of tourism to almost all atolls in the country, the ministry has decided to expand the ban to encompass all reef shark fishing across the Maldives within a 12 nautical mile radius.
Marie Saleem, a reef ecologist at the marine research center and one of those at the forefront of the campaign to ban shark hunting, said she was both “excited” and “relieved” to hear that the efforts of those who had been pushing for a ban were “finally fruitful”.
Reef shark populations would now need to be monitored as a matter of urgency in order to observe the effectiveness of the ban, she said.
Abdullah Nasir, permanent secretary of the fisheries ministry, has said: “The fisheries law clearly tells us that we can protect any marine species if we feel that it’s threatened or endangered for any reason.”
(Gray Reef Shark)
Although oceanic shark fishing is yet to be prohibited by law, Nasir said the ministry was “working towards that” and had set itself a target of banning the export of shark products, both oceanic and reef, within one year.
“We have taken very strong action against the protection of sharks simply because they were protected worldwide and are very important for tourism.”
As sharks reproduce at a slow rate their populations cannot handle large-scale fishing pressure.
Speaking to Minivan News in December, Guy Stevens, senior marine biologist at Four Seasons resorts, said: “It takes decades and decades for the shark population to recover, but it doesn’t take long to wipe out.”
NGO Shark Alliance estimates tens of millions of sharks are killed globally each year either as by-catch or intentionally. The lucrative market for shark fins in Asia, where shark-fin soup is considered to be a delicacy, is believed to be increasing each year, which makes the fight against global shark fishing all the more difficult.
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