World's Largest Shark Sanctuary Declared -- Four Times the Size of California!

sharks photo

Photo by notsogoodphotography via Flickr CC

When it comes to competitive contests of size, one theme we don't mind at all is world's largest conservation zone. The Marshall Islands have taken over, announcing the world's largest sanctuary for sharks, covering 768,547 square miles which is four times larger than the landmass of California. In a press release from The Pew Environment Group, Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation, stated, "We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for enacting the strongest legislation to protect sharks that we have seen. As leaders recognize the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans, the momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe."

Indeed that momentum is spreading like wildfire a tidal wave! The world's first shark sanctuary was declared in Palau in 2009, followed by the Maldives in early 2010. Then Indonesia set aside the waters around an entire island, and this year Cocos Island dedicated waters to a sanctuary bigger than Yellowstone, Honduras coughed up over 92,000 square miles, followed by the Bahamas with 250,000 square miles.

Now this, from the Marshall Islands, is an exciting new addition. And the "bigger is better" concept really rings true.

In all, Micronesia has promised 2 million square miles of Pacific Ocean will become a shark sanctuary.

While bigger may be better in some ways, the details of a sanctuary are every bit as important, if not more so. The Marshall Islands have declared that their sanctuary will ban the commercial fishing of sharks and the sale of sharks and shark products. Any sharks caught by accident have to be set free. And anyone breaking the rules will pay up to $200,000 US in fines.

As for enforcement, the declaration includes "a monitoring and enforcement provision which requires all fishing vessels to land their catch at one of the country's ports and bans at sea transfers."

"In passing this bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy," said Senator Tony deBrum, a representative from Kwajalein Atoll who is a bill cosponsor. "I thank President Jurelang Zedkaia for his vision and support for this effort. Ours may be a small island nation, but our waters are now the biggest place sharks are protected. We hope other Micronesian leaders will join with us to make good on our collective promise of a regional sanctuary."

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