By Julie Simati Fiu
APIA, SAMOA THURSDAY 01 MARCH 2018: The Pacific Environment Ministers are currently meeting in Apia to discuss the management of the shark population within the Pacific Ocean.
The historical meeting is the very first Pacific Ministerial Shark Symposium, demonstrating global leadership from the island region in protecting and conserving Pacific sharks and rays.
The world’s first regional shark sanctuary, the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary between Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Republic of Marshall Islands, was established in the Pacific in 2015.It was also the Pacific island nation, Palau that established the world’s very first shark sanctuary in 2009.
“This is something we do not take lightly, and we are incredibly proud to add Samoa to the growing list of countries, working to manage shark and ray populations both internationally and at home,” said Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa who chaired the opening of the symposium.
“Though much has been achieved, proper shark conservation and management remain a pertinent global issue.”
Fiame said that sharks are economically, ecologically and culturally important to Pacific Islanders shark populations are plummeting to frighteningly low levels.
“This could be an opportunity to take a close look at current shark management of what threats they continue to face, and new techniques to study them that may aid learning more about sharks within out waters,” she said.
She hopes that the meeting will continue to build on that momentum by creating a positive space for discussion on what more the region should be doing to ensure a brighter future for these critical and iconic species.
According to Roger Cornforth, Acting Director General of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), sharks are one of the most enduring animals in the Central Pacific.
He also mentioned that the Pacific is also the world’s first to establish a regional shark sanctuary and several marine protected areas.
“The Pacific as we all know is a home to a diversity of marine species and important habitats,” he said.
“Conserving sharks will not only help to restore the ecological balance on our reefs and in the open ocean will also promote economic benefits for some of our coastal communities who are reaping economic benefits from the divers who want to experience the thrill of seeing large sharks in the wild,” he said.
He also said that this will help to brand the Pacific islands as a place where sharks are a respected and treasured part of our cultural and natural heritage.
“We have led the world to see that the future of our countries depends on proper management of marine ecosystems, creating and capitalising on the momentum these realization have created to ensure shark populations are finally getting the proper management they so need,” said Fiame.
She said the Pacific will work together in the spirit of genuine partnership to ensure that this work is successful so that these species are around for our future generations.
The two days symposium was opened with a welcome ava ceremony and a declaration of the outcome of the symposium will be released Friday after the two day meeting