NEW YORK – In a brief ceremony yesterday, the Bahamas assumed chairmanship of the United Nations Shark Coalition.
Dr Elliston Rahming, Ambassador to the United Nations and the Organisation of American States (OAS), accepted the chair on behalf of the Bahamas as 20 other ambassadors looked on.
This development follows the banning of shark fishing in the Bahamas July 2011.
According to PEW Charitable Trusts, a multi-billion dollar entity which works to establish shark sanctuaries and which underwrites the costs of the coalition’s activities, shark diving provides $78 million to the Bahamian economy in tourism revenue each year.
It has been estimated that a shark that is captured will yield up to $10,000, versus the $3 million that could be derived over that same shark’s lifetime if it is left in the ocean to be enjoyed and studied by divers and scientists.
A shark sanctuary is an area that forbids commercial fishing operations from catching sharks.
The State of Palau created the first shark sanctuary in 2009, followed by the Republic of Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau.
Every year, fishermen pull close to 100 million sharks from the world’s oceans, and according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), more than half of all shark species face over-exploitation or depletion.
The search for shark fins drives the illegal hunting trade.
The International Journal of Conservation estimates that shark ecotourism currently generates more than $314 million per year world-wide and is expected to grow to $800 million in 20 years.
Global shark fishing, on the other hand, yields $630 million annually and is in decline.
In the Caribbean, shark tourism generates almost $124 million in tourism, annually supporting more than 5,000 jobs.
The primary focus of the coalition is to encourage governments to create shark sanctuaries and to create an awareness of shark conservation as a major source of revenue.
The Bahamas will relinquish the chairmanship in December, 2014.