According to the BBC, Palau is intending to create the world’s first shark sanctuary by banning all commercial shark fishing in its waters. Johnson Toribiong, Palau’s President, announced this on Friday at the UN General Assembly. It will protect 600,000 sq km of ocean.
Palau gains a lot of income from their tourism, a mainstay of which is scuba diving. When I was there several years ago, I found it had a very high concentration of sharks, primarily grey reef sharks.
There are questions as to whether Palau will be able to enforce the ban as they only have one patrol boat. According to the BBC’s report, a recent aerial survey found 70 boats fishing in the area, most of them apparently illegally. However the fishermen still need to land their catches, so with improved monitoring, and international cooperation in tracking and sharing information on illegal fishing boats, perhaps things need not seem so bleak.
Palau is also intending to review its current position on whaling, where it has sided with countries which are pro-hunting, such as Japan. The President is planning bilateral meeting with Japan to discuss it based on the most recent scientific data. He has said that he wants Palau’s position to take a position that “will not lead to the depletion and extinction of whales”.
Perhaps this new shark sanctuary could make Palau an even more attractive destination for divers.
You can get more information from the BBC’s website.