Published 2 September 2014

New programme aims to protect Pacific sharks and preserve cultural heritage

Samoa, 2nd September 2014—A new programme to support Pacific Island governments in managing and conserving their shark and ray populations was launched today at the Third International Conference of the United Nations Small Islands Developing States in Apia, Samoa.

The Pacific Shark Heritage Programme will work with governments throughout the region to assist them in managing shark and ray populations sustainably to ensure their long-term viability, while safeguarding the cultural history of the Pacific Island nations. The Programme is a joint effort between WWF and TRAFFIC. 

In officiating at the launch, Michael Donoghue, Threatened & Migratory Species Adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, highlighted how the Programme will offer practical solutions and assistance to both fisheries management and shark-based eco-tourism by developing truly sustainable strategies. 

“Sharks are a vital component of both pelagic and coastal ecosystems, and their over-exploitation has disrupted trophic relationships and affected these ecosystems in a multitude of ways…we urgently need to convince fishing nations that the short-term gains from shark fins are heavily outweighed by the long-term damage caused,” said Donoghue. 

The programme will produce replicable and practical ways to evaluate shark and ray populations which will help in developing long-term management strategies for these iconic species.

“It is critical to small island nations, such as those in the Pacific, that shark species are maintained at a level where they can fulfil their role in the cultural and ecosystem landscape of the region,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Marine Programme Leader.

In 2014, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group concluded that nearly a quarter of 1000 sharks and rays species worldwide are threatened with extinction, primarily from overfishing and habitat loss.

WWF-TRAFFIC Pacific Shark Heritage Programme factsheet