Sharks are under serious threat around the globe with approximately one-quarter of shark and ray species threatened worldwide. The number of sharks being killed every year is estimated at between 63 and 273 million individuals.The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOU) is the first global instrument for the conservation of migratory species of sharks.
The Netherlands is one of 41 signatories to the Sharks MOU. The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) is hosting a workshop on Bonaire to help profile Bonaire as a shark-friendly island and “green destination” and also to promote the Sharks MOU in the Caribbean region, where there are still relatively few signatories.
Countries ranging from the Philippines to Saudi Arabia, from the United States to Australia and from Costa Rica to Chile have sent representatives to Bonaire for this meeting. The gathering brings together both the Advisory Committee and the Conservation Working Group of the Sharks MOU, to discuss what shark or ray species need more protection internationally, how they can best be protected, how to cooperate with fisheries organisations, and how to build capacity for better shark protection. They will formulate recommendations for the Meeting of Signatories, which will take the final decisions.
Bonaire has been protecting sharks since 2008 because of their importance to its coral reefs and dive tourism and together with Saba, petitioned for the designation of their Exclusive Economic Zones as part of the Yarari Sanctuary for the protectoin of marine mammals and sharks, comprising the waters of Bonaire and Saba. The Tourism Corporation Bonaire (TCB) is supporting the meeting and is welcoming the participants at a cocktail party on Monday evening.
The Shark MOU is a legally non-binding international instrument within the framework of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). It aims to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for migratory sharks based on the best available scientific information and taking into account the socio-economic value of these species for the people in various countries. Currently, 29 species of sharks are listed in Annex I of the MOU.
The Netherlands has taken an active role in the Sharks MOU, and with the Caribbean Netherlands is a range state for numerous migratory shark species. Sharks are an important attractor for dive tourism. Dive tourism is the economic mainstay for Bonaire, which is why the island decided to protect all sharks almost ten years ago already.
More recently, both Bonaire and Saba requested the Netherlands to establish a sanctuary for both sharks and marine mammals in the waters of the islands as well as in the waters of the adjoining Exclusive Economic Zone. As a result, Yarari Sanctuary was established in 2015, which will help to improve protection of in particular migratory sharks.