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Sharks protected in the territorial waters of the Maldives

March 16, 2010

The tiny nation of the Maldives has been in the news a lot recently: meetings held underwater, commitments to going carbon neutral . . . well, its now back in the news with another great initiative — banning shark fishing.

Shark fin soup is extremely popular in parts of Asia including China and Hong Kong, which has lead to an overfishing of many shark populations. In fact, up to 30% of shark species are endangered and could face extinction according to Matt Rand, the director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environmental Group.

So it comes as fantastic news that the waters around the Maldives will become a shark sanctuary as of July 1st. According to an article on MNN, the protected area in the Maldives will include roughly 35,000 square miles. Sharks have been “finned” in recent decades which entails cutting off their fins and throwing the rest of the body back into the water, but officials in the Maldives have realized that they stand to earn far more in tourist revenue than in shark fin exports. One third of the Maldives’ economy depends on tourism and who wouldn’t want to see a shark while snorkeling or scuba diving? (Okay, could be a little scary . . . but still cool!) 

Palau was the first nation to adopt the ban on shark fishing, and hopefully others will follow suit. Here in the U.S. there is a bill called the Shark Conservation Act awaiting senate approval, which would help protect sharks and reduce shark finning.

Sharks have been portrayed as extremely dangerous animals to be around, but the greatest danger now is their extinction.

Photo of a whale shark, as seen while snorkeling in the Maldives (via daveog/flickr)

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