million square kilometres that joined with the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands’ sanctuaries to create the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary. All together, this sanctuary spans 6.5 million square kilometres in the Western Pacific Ocean.
How and if this massive area can be monitored, controlled, and how surveillance will occur remains a question, but the effort is laudable and shows the level of dedication the people of the Pacific have towards shark conservation. The collaboration of the FSM, RMI, Palau, Guam and CNMI will further enable them to work together on these tough problems.
Almost every dive in the Marshall Islands includes sightings of sharks. Whitetip reef sharks and nurse sharks cruise the decks of Japanese WWII shipwrecks and grey reef sharks are a common sight on almost every reef dive. On the oceanside of the atoll, sightings of silky sharks, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and tiger sharks are just some of the many species spotted by divers and from boats.
This mostly unvisited and isolated region is probably one of the most pristine places left on Earth, with comparatively low impact from commercial fishing, pollution, development, and even divers.
Its healthy shark populations and beautiful marine life is evidence of what protection can achieve. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is home to one of the world’s largest shark sanctuaries. It covers almost two million square kilometres, an area about the size of Mexico, with only a land mass of 181 square kilometres. The rest of that remote area in the Western Pacific, just north of the equator and west of the International Date Line, is a healthy marine ecosystem teeming with sharks and other marine life. The sanctuary was created in 2011, following the lead of Palau, which who established the first shark sanctuary in 2009, the largest of its kind up to that point. Since then, other countries have joined in and created larger sanctuaries, including Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The RMI shark sanctuary bans the commercial fishing of sharks and the sale of shark or shark parts (including fins). It also prohibits certain types of fishing gear such as wire leaders, which increase shark bycatch. Fines of up to US$200,000 can be given to anyone found fishing sharks or in possession of shark fins. For a country of just over 50,000 people, this massive sanctuary is a huge step forward in the conservation of sharks. In the RMI, fishing boats must clear their catch at one of the islands before leaving and show that they do not have sharks on-board.
In 2015, the Federated States of Micronesia created a shark sanctuary covering almost three
RIGHT A nurse shark hides under the wing of a WWII plane in the aircraft graveyard at Kwajalein Atoll