Shark sanctuary declared in eastern Indonesia

November 17th, 2010 - 12:17 am ICT by BNO News  

RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) - Misool Eco Resort and Shark Savers on Tuesday announced that a Shark Sanctuary has been declared for the entire 17,760 square miles of Raja Ampat, Indonesia, located in the eastern region of the country.

Bupati Drs Marcus Wanma, the Regent of Raja Ampat, made this historic declaration, demonstrating leadership in marine conservation.

The Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary provides full protection for sharks, manta rays, mobulas, dugongs, and turtles.

In addition, it prohibits highly destructive practices including reef bombing and the aquarium fish trade. The Shark Sanctuary is the first of its kind in Indonesia, the largest island archipelago in the world.

Raja Ampat enjoys the highest marine biodiversity level on the planet with 1397 species of fish and over 600 species of coral recorded, but it has also been the scene of destructive overfishing that has severely threatened sharks, mantas, and other vulnerable species.

The Shark Sanctuary declaration is in direct response to a campaign mounted by Shark Savers, an international shark conservation organization, in partnership with Misool Eco Resort. The campaign won the support of over 8,500 divers and conservationists, with hundreds of tourism and diving companies and NGOs from around the world.

“This new Shark Sanctuary owes its creation to thousands of ocean advocates who expressed the urgent need to protect sharks, mantas, and other marine life,” said Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers.

“Divers experience the oceans from the inside and are increasingly taking responsibility for ocean and shark conservation. Underwater ecotourism is a vital tool to counter the rampant exploitation of the world’s remaining sharks and bio-rich marine ecosystems.”

The Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary is expected to attract additional underwater eco-tourism, which will bring economic benefit to Raja Ampat’s people while offsetting the cost to enforce the new wildlife protections.

Sharks, as apex predators, play a vital role in regulating the health of important commercial fish species, population balance, and coral reefs. Despite this importance, up to 73 million sharks are killed annually with some shark populations declining by as much as 90 percent, mostly for shark fin soup.

In Raja Ampat, three fourths of its shark species are threatened with local extinction.

“Sharks are being killed for their fins, mantas are being killed for their gills, and rare reef fish are being caught for aquariums”, said Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid.

“It’s tragic that so much of Raja Ampat’s biological treasure is destined for consumers who are unaware of the impact.”

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