Bahamas Bans Commercial Shark Fishing

Fishing for shark in the Bahamas is now prohibited after bans were placed on all coast lines. The measure applies to an estimated 243,000 square miles of water surrounding the archipelago. The decision, announced by Lawrence Cartwright, minister of agriculture and marine resources, came following a media blitz by environmental groups and a petition signed by 5,000 Bahamian residents.

Bahamas Bans Shark Fishing

The area has one of the most diverse and thriving shark populations in the world, thanks to a 20-year-old ban on long line fishing.

Although the Bahamas has banned commercial long line fishing for nearly 20 years and established a network of marine parks, there was no previous law that specifically protected sharks. Then last fall, a Bahamian seafood company floated the idea of exporting sharks to feed the demand for shark fin soup in the Far East.

That prompted the Bahamas National Trust — which is comparable to the National Park Service in the U.S. — and the U.S.-based Pew Environmental Group to launch a petition drive and media campaign to push for the shark-fishing ban.

“There were no specific laws in the Bahamas for sharks, the crown jewels of ocean health,” said Eric Carey, executive director of The Bahamas National Trust. “The new regulations … ensure that sharks can continue to thrive for generations in our waters.”

The government also increased shark-fishing fines from $3,000 to $5,000.

In the U.S., shark fishing is regulated by NOAA Fisheries under a commercial quota system. Several species, such as the great white and whale shark, are protected from all harvest. The practice of finning sharks, cutting off their fins and discarding the carcass, is illegal.

Florida recently enacted a ban on harvesting lemon sharks in state waters. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is now considering adding hammerhead and tiger sharks to the list of prohibited species.

By: Pat Prescott
Published: Jul 6, 2021
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