Momentum to protect sharks in Fiji is building with the official launch of the Coral Reef Alliance's community awareness campaign. The campaign kickoff event in Suva included a screening of Shark Hope, a new half-hour documentary produced by a local film production company in Fiji, about the plight of Fiji’s sharks and the importance of protecting them. The launch of this documentary marks the latest development in CORAL's partnership with the Pew Environment Group to assist the Fijian Ministry of Fisheries in introducing legal measures that would ban the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts in Fiji. CORAL and Pew have spent months garnering support for a Fiji Shark Sanctuary from traditional leaders across the nation, and recently met with the acting Prime Minister, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
The campaign's objective is to create a Fijian National Shark Sanctuary that would
• prohibit the commercial fishing of sharks throughout the entirety of the Fijian exclusive economic zone
• prohibit the import and export of shark products in Fiji
• prohibit the sale of shark products within Fiji
• allow recreational catch and release of sharks
• allow the incidental, artisanal catch of sharks by citizens of Fiji, assuming the subsequent shark or shark products are not sold.
"Our primary focus is on the ecosystem above and below the water and working with the local community," Rick MacPherson, CORAL's Director of Conservation Programs, told Scuba Diving magazine at DEMA 2011. "Healthy sharks means healthy reefs. If we don't maintain healthy reefs, we basically have an ecosystem collapse."
How can you help? Become a "Fiji Shark Defender" and pledge to support policies and initiatives that will restore a healthy shark population in Fiji.
"We are looking at a pretty grim picture by 2020 if we don't make changes now," MacPherson said. "We think 2011 can be a banner year for sharks if the sanctuaries are effectively implemented."