www.bbc.co.uk 3rd October 2011
The republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific has created the world’s largest shark sanctuary, covering around 2 million square kilometres (772,000 square miles) of ocean. The sanctuary, roughly the equivalent area of Mexico or Saudi Arabia, is three times the size of the former largest sanctuary created by Palau two years ago. The move by the Marshall government reflects the importance of diving tourism on the islands’ economy. ”In passing this [shark protection] bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy,” said Senator Tony deBrum, who co-sponsored the bill. New laws now dictate that the commercial fishing of sharks is banned, as is the trade in any shark products. Certain types of fishing gear will be banned and violators of these laws will face fines of up to £200,000. Shark fishing has been on the rise in recent years due to high demand in China and other Asian countries for shark fins. Around 73 million are killed annually resulting in a third of ocean-going sharks being out on the Red List of Threatened Species. The Marshall Island government worked closely with the US-based Pew Environmental Group to create the sanctuary.