Recently the French Polynesia and Cook islands joined six countries – Palau, Maldives, Honduras, Bahamas, Marshall Islands and Tokelau in creating shark sanctuaries. The new additions are adjacent to each other and span 2.5 million square miles of ocean.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature a third of all shark species face some threat of extinction. One factor contributing to the problem is that sharks fins are coveted for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.
Last year, American Samoa and the Micronesian state of Kosrae have barred shark fishing off their shores, and the European Union and Venezuela have both prohibited the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins while discarding the body at sea.
Jill Hepp, the program director of the Pew Environment Group’s global shark conservation program, was quoted in the Washington Post: “In just a few years, there has been a fundamental shift in the way that sharks are perceived,” adding that concern over the effects of losing sharks “is now far more frightening than their misguided reputation. With shark fishing now legally prohibited, we are hopeful that sharks now have the protection they need to recover in the same way that wolves and bears have returned in national parks on land.”