SOUTH TARAWA, Kiribati, Nov. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pew Charitable Trusts applauded the Pacific island nation of Kiribati today for its establishment of the world's second largest shark sanctuary. The legislation bans commercial fishing throughout the sanctuary, which covers the country's entire 3.4 million-square-kilometer (1.3 million-square-mile) exclusive economic zone—an area larger than India—and also expands the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary.
The possession, trade, and sale of sharks and shark products are also prohibited throughout the sanctuary, as is the use of fishing gear typically used to target sharks, such as wire leaders. Vice President Kourabi Nenem made the announcement at the end of a five-day workshop on shark sanctuary enforcement. The meeting was hosted by the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, Pew, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, with participation from the Pacific Islands Marine Protected Areas Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. "The Kiribati shark sanctuary is a safeguard of our culture," said Vice President Nenem. "Protecting our ocean means protecting the sharks that belong in our waters to maintain the health of our ocean and the marine living resources which Kiribati depends on for economic food and security of its people." Luke Warwick, director of Pew's global shark conservation campaign, said, "Sanctuaries are one way governments can ensure that we protect sharks for generations to come. "We hope that the shark sanctuary in Kiribati will inspire other Pacific islands to take action in their waters so that sharks and rays are offered the strong protections they need to survive," he added. Worldwide, about 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are now threatened with extinction. Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they mature and reproduce slowly.