Dr. Guy Harvey, world-renown scientist and marine wildlife artist, has joined the call for strict regulations to ban commercial fishing of all sharks in The Bahamas. In support of the initiative, Dr. Harvey has created a “Protect Bahamian Sharks” campaign logo and poster and is presenting the elements to government officials in Nassau today.
Sharks around the world are being driven nearly to extinction by over-exploitation, some citing the Far East’s demand for shark fin soup as the predominant factor.
Longline fishing gear has been banned in The Bahamas since the 1990s, an initiative led by The Bahamas National Trust. According to Eric Carey, Executive Director of The Bahamas National Trust, “Bahamian waters are one of the few places in the world with relatively healthy shark populations.” And, according to the Bahamas Diving Association, as one of the the premier shark-watching destinations for divers, The Bahamas has reeled in US$800 million over the past 20 years for the national economy.
While the ban on longlining gear helps, Matt Rand, the director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environmental Group, cautions that sharks are still considered at-risk in Bahamian waters due to other methods of fishing. Pew Environmental is working with The Bahamas National Trust to raise awareness and to establish measures that will conserve shark populations before it is too late.
Scientists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature have estimated that 30 percent of shark and ray species around the world are threatened or near-threatened with extinction. Scientists warn loss of these animals could cause irreversible damage to the ocean’s ecosystem and result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the tourist trade.