Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shark Sanctuaries: Dancing on Bonfires?

For those who have been blogging about shark conservation for the past five years the subject of Shark Sanctuaries has been a hot topic.

The primary reason as we have long said is that, "getting politicians to declare vast tracts of the planet as no take zones is relatively easy...getting those same politicians or their successors to put real dollars into enforcement of these newly created zones is something else altogether."

So went the conservation head of steam for sharks from 2008-2011 with some great results. The Maldives, Honduras, and the Marshall Islands all declared huge ocean based no take, or limited take zones to ecstatic Facebook acclaim and kudos from the major NGO's.

Some of this effusive praise was over-the-top as if regional governments had in fact stopped the decline of sharks completely in their waters and increased shark stocks by 1000% overnight as if by magic. The simple intonation of the words, "Shark Sanctuary" and commitment to paper signed by politicians to be framed for photo opportunities later was the magic cure all for commercial shark take.

But what of these zones? We wrote about the looming issue of SINO's back in 2011.

SINO's - Sanctuary in Name Only is a pejorative term that refers to a nation state whose recently declared "Sanctuary Waters for Sharks" are considered insufficiently enforced or otherwise not conforming to actual sanctuaries in any form.

As it turns out the second act of the much vaulted Shark Sanctuary is now playing out - enforcement or lack of it. 

Mike, aka Da Shark in Fiji, has unloaded on this issue with his own spin towards the "fisheries biologists" citing a report from Simon Frasier University that ends with this prescient warning:

Shark sanctuaries provide hope, but there is no scientific evidence that they are effective—yet. Even worse, the positive press attention surrounding shark sanctuaries may preclude more effective conservation management. 

As we said back in 2011:

SINO's are the looming Act Two for shark conservation. Getting a politician to make promises for the environment is a time honored tradition. Getting that same politician or his or her successor to follow through with hard and fast enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.

That rubber will cost millions of dollars to the shark conservation movement who have managed thus far to get Sanctuaries declared at a pace that has been stunning to watch. It has also been a relatively cheap affair, conservation light, with dollars spent verses sanctuary acres created part of the ongoing equation.

Where enforcement monies, infrastructure, and boots on the ground will come from for these newly created sanctuaries anyone knows.

Before another country declares a Sanctuary for Sharks we should be looking at how we are going to manage the millions of remote acres we already have locked away in countries that have a long track record of SINO.

It's where we have to focus in the next decade and it all starts with dollars and a plan.


Patric Douglas 
Special Operations Film & TV 
Shark Divers 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at