By David Jolly
In a sign that the global movement to protect sharks is picking up steam, Honduras is declaring its waters to be a permanent sanctuary for the fish.
President Porfirio Lobo Sosa will sign the sanctuary bill into law on Friday on a visit to the island of Roatan, the country’s top diving and snorkeling destination, his office said on Thursday. The move makes permanent a moratorium on commercial fishing for sharks that Honduras announced last year in a joint declaration with the Micronesian island of Palau.
The measure protects sharks in the 92,665 square miles of Honduras’s exclusive economic zone, which encompasses both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Conservationists applauded the move. “There’s real momentum growing for shark conservation that wasn’t there a decade ago,” said Jill M. Hepp, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group.
Chile also moved toward a stricter policy on shark fishing this week. On Wednesday, the country’s Chamber of Deputies unanimously backed a bill to ban shark finning in Chilean waters; the legislation now awaits action by the Senate before President Sebastián Piñera can sign it. If he does, Venezuela would be alone among Latin American nations in not restricting the practice.
Finning is a practice in which fishermen cut off the shark’s fins for sale in the lucrative shark-fin soup trade and then throw the entire bleeding carcass back into the sea — often with the shark still alive. The Chilean legislation would require that all sharks be taken whole and brought to port intact, a requirement that essentially makes fishing for the sharkfin trade unprofitable.
María Antonieta Guillén de Bogran, the Honduran first vice president, said in a telephone interview that creating a shark sanctuary was “an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the species and protect our national patrimony.”
“We want to be a reference point for the world,’’ she said. “We’re a small country, but we can set an example.”
Another element in the calculus is a growing recognition that at least some sharks have more economic value in the water than they do in the soup pot. More....