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Every Year, An Estimated 100 Million Sharks Are Killed. That’s More Than 11,000 Every Hour. In Light Of These Frightening Statistics, Colombia’s Government Is Expanding Its Shark Protection Policies

hammerheadCreativecommons.org/Barry Peters

When it comes to marine conservation, less people are willing to speak up for sharks than for whales and dolphins.

Thanks in part to a big movie blockbuster (which shall remain nameless), the poor old misunderstood shark has been left vulnerable to overfishing, climate change, habitat loss and the inhumane shark fin trade – despite its vital importance to the marine environment.

But now it looks as if the public opinion tide may be turning for the shark – and the South American country of Colombia is leading the way.

President Juan Manuel Santos announced at the recent World Ocean Summit that the country is amping-up its efforts to halt the import and export of sharks and shark parts.

shark fin soupCreativecommons.org/istolethetv

With more than half of the world’s shark and ray species facing elevated risk, and at least one-quarter of these species threatened with extinction, this is excellent news for marine conservation.

“President Juan Manuel Santos and his administration understand that people need healthy oceans, and healthy oceans need sharks,” commented Imogen Zethoven, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global shark conservation project. “Stopping shark exports and imports would be an economic and environmental boon for the country. A shark sanctuary would offer additional protections for these majestic, ancient creatures.”

According to one economic study, the estimated tourism value of a living reef shark in the water is $1.9 million over its lifetime, compared with a one-time value of $108 for a dead one.

Last year, Colombia played a leading role in securing protection for five species of sharks under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Appendix ensures that international trade is sustainable and legal.

The regulations go into effect on September 14 for scalloped and great hammerheads, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies as endangered (similar to the status of giant pandas and tigers), as well as smooth hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and porbeagles (similar to the status of lions, cheetahs and polar bears).

 

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