Photo via Pew, credit Shawn Jackson
Honduras has taken a great step in boosting its 2010 moratorium on shark-fishing with an announcement that the country is creating a 92,665 square mile shark sanctuary in its waters. Recognizing that sharks are a valuable asset not only to the country's coral reef ecosystems, but also to tourism, President Lobo Sosa signed the legislation this week.
The news comes just a few months after Indonesia set aside 17,760 square miles around the island of Raja Ampat as a shark sanctuary, showing that more and more countries are recognizing how sharks are far more valuable alive than dead.
"We have seen that protecting sharks helps our environment and our people," said Honduran Vice President María Antonieta Guillén de Bogran, who also attended the announcement. "When tourists come to Roatan and other destinations, they spend money to see the sharks. But these animals don't just help the Honduran economy. Our coral reefs and marine environment thrive because these apex predators are safe in our waters. Today's declaration will help us all, underwater and on land, for generations to come."
Along with reef sharks (shown above), Honduras is home to whale sharks:
Photo via Pew, credit George Stoyle
Swimming with whale sharks is becoming a major tourist attraction, as these awe-inspiring giants are of little danger to the humans who want to hang out with them. However, sparing sharks for tourism also has a footprint, and we have to pay attention to the ecological impact of tourism just as much as the impact of overfishing.
About one third of all shark species are threatened with extinction, primarily due to overfishing for their fins. Honduras banned all shark fishing last year, and hopefully with this additional move will show other countries how fishing for tourist dollars is a smarter move in the long run, if handled correctly.
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