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Plans to Conserve Sharks while Protecting Human Life

An International Shark Symposium in its second day of a two-day Sharks and CITES Symposium: Prep for the COP (Conference of the Parties) focusing on the preservation of marine resources, more specifically sharks and rays. 

More feared than revered, sharks have long gotten a bad reputation as the apex predator of the sea.  But researchers have found that tens to hundreds of millions are killed each year. 

For The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) this is a major concern as The Bahamas has one of the most impressive and extensive National Parks in the Americas, according to BNT Director Eric Carey. 

The BNT’s efforts to protect the marine species have attracted government attention to do more to protect sharks locally. 

As shark finds are worth big money, it begs the need for conservation and with that backdrop, the Ministry of Agriculture Marine Resources teamed up with international partners to host the symposium here in The Bahamas. 

Minister of Agriculture Micheal Pintard told symposium participants yesterday that The Bahamas stands in solidarity with countries that have signed on to the convention to protect sharks and rays and that The Bahamas is well on its way to the 2020 challenge, making a commitment to ensure that 20 percent of the country’s marine environment would be set aside by 2020. 

“The Bahamas is playing a leading role in the global community in the conservation of our marine environment. Of course this is not confining to sharks, but certainly you would be aware of the work that we have been doing,” Mr. Pintard said. 

“We are in the process of engaging in further discussions with Cabinet colleagues to weigh out the additional areas that have been identified.

“We’ve also been very careful to work with all stakeholders because we recognize that the government is but one important stakeholder, but all other stakeholders are equally important and we’ve had success because of this partnership

“We’ve gone to great lengths to avoid antagonistic relationship.”

The symposium comes on the heels of 21-year-old American Jordan Lindsey, being attacked and killed by sharks in waters near Rose Island, followed by another non-fatal attack of an American man. 

Minister Pintard assured that much is being done to enforce and make laws that are necessary to protect the marine environment as well as human life. 

Mr. Pintard added that lots of research has been done in terms of the environmental benefits and sharks contribution to the overall ecosystem and the contributions socially as well as economically as businesses thrive because of the presence of sharks. 

“With respects to sharks in particular, the efforts when they pay off, as they have been, no doubt result in the increase population of sharks. And when that occurs obviously that results in increase in interaction between sharks and human beings and at the end of the day, we appreciate fully the value of sharks,” Mr. Pintard said.

“As we look at the increase number of sharks [that] we believe will result as an outcome of the efforts to be a making, we are seeking to strike a critical balance where while we protect sharks we also protect other users of the water, in particular, human beings who are engaged, working with fisheries, whether Bahamians who are swimming or whether they are guests who come to our country.” 

Mr. Pintard further noted that the ministry will move decisively and definitively to address issues regarding sharks and possible shark attacks. 

“We are examining with a view of dramatically reducing, and I believe we will get to completely ban chumming in Bahamian waters. We have a very serious concern about the increase of feeding of sharks, particularly in residential areas or in the periphery of restaurants seeking to attract customers. That too is posing a problem, given where it is occurring,” Mr Pintard said. 

Marine conservation has actually long been discussed, and the BNT director explained that The Bahamas’ commitment to protecting the marine environment many years ago as it values sharks as an important part of the ecosystem. 

“We’ve had incredible successes in The Bahamas, not only with marine conservation, but there have been landmarked globally significant levels of environmental conservation,” Mr. Carey said.

“We’re very proud of the creation of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in 1958, the oldest land and sea park in the world.

“We became a shark sanctuary, the first in the Caribbean, in 2011, and worked closely with some of you [Conference of Parties], and we are very proud of that.” 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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