Four new countries join WWF’s Pacific Shark Heritage Programme
The decision to join the PSHP was confirmed at the recent Heads of Fisheries meeting at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia, 21-24 March, where Pacific fisheries leaders further committed to improving conservation and management matters for data-poor Pacific species of sharks and rays.
The PSHP initiative helps ensure that shark and ray species are managed under viable long-term strategies in Pacific waters. The programme works with governments throughout the Pacific region to help them sustainably manage their shark and ray populations while safeguarding the cultural history of Pacific Island nations. Since its 2014 start, Samoa has incorporated the development of such a plan within its own tuna-management process.
Ian Campbell, Manager of WWF’s Pacific Shark Heritage Programme highlighted the lack of data that inhibits conservation and management efforts of sharks and rays. According to a 2014 IUCN Shark Specialist Group-led study that examined more than 1,000 species of the two species, it was found that almost a quarter of all species of sharks and rays are facing a heightened threat of extinction, and almost half of all species are classed as data deficient.
“This means that there is almost no credible information on population status and trends,” said Mr Campbell. “The lack of information is likely to be exacerbated in places such as the Pacific Islands, which have relatively small fisheries departments, geographically dispersed fishing communities and lack capacity to gather up to date information.”
Mr. Campbell said with the PSHP membership now up to eight countries, momentum could now be realised in developing sustainable management plans for sharks and rays, while initiating activities to improve the understanding of the role of sharks and rays in coastal fisheries. The PSHP work to date was officially endorsed by all attending ministry representatives.
Mr Campbell concluded: “With the future collaborations of governments from across the Pacific region, we will start to get a clearer picture of the state of the populations of these magnificent animals, and be able to start developing and implementing sustainable management plans for them.”