Bahamas Outlaws Commercial Shark Fishing

The Government of the Bahamas recently announced that it will prohibit all commercial shark fishing in its more than 240,000 square miles of territorial water. The move has gotten the attention of marine conservations such as biologist, angler, photographer and world-renowned artist Guy Harvey.

“I am very impressed and pleased that the Government of the Bahamas has taken the necessary and correct steps to further protect its marine resources from over-exploitation by both local and foreign interests,” Harvey said. “This new legislation compliments the ban on commercial longline fishing enacted 20 years ago.”

Bahamas Outlaws Commercial Shark Fishing

The ban on commercial shark fishing and exportation of shark products is a huge step in the conservation of sharks worldwide. Harvey is the founder of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), both of which are supporting shark studies, including tagging and migration, and he has spent years studying and admiring sharks.

Through the Bahamas National Trust, Harvey met with government officials last March to add his voice and influence as a highly respected conservationist and call for strict regulations to ban the commercial fishing of all sharks in the Bahamas‹an archipelago, which includes 700 islands sweeping across 500 miles of open ocean. The Bahamas is the fourth country to ban shark fishing following Honduras, the Maldives and Palau. More than 70 million sharks are killed annually around the world.

The Bahamas makes up one of the premier shark-watching destinations for divers, reeling in $800 million over the past 20 years for the national economy. In that regard, sharks are worth much more alive than dead.

“Many countries have seen their populations of sharks annihilated by commercial over-exploitation,” Harvey said. “Research has shown that shark populations do not recover. Other countries will take encouragement from the Bahamas’ very bold move. They are realizing very quickly the value of the living shark in maintaining the health of reef ecosystems. In addition, the economic value of a living shark to ecotourism is now widely accepted as a sustainable and non-consumptive use of a marine resource with many additional benefits to respective island nations.”

Harvey created a “Protect Bahamian Sharks” campaign logo and poster and helped initiate a petition drive to force the issue of banning commercial shark fishing. Upon receiving a petition signed by 5,000 Bahamian residents, the government acted to protect the 40 sharks species found in Bahamian waters.

Harvey, who is also an active fisherman, has also been working to change the structure of several recreational shark tournaments. He teamed up with The Ocean City Shark tournament, based in Ocean City, Maryland, to put in place a $15,000 prize package for the catch-and-release division.

And in May, the Second Annual Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge, a catch-and-release tournament was held on the west coast of Florida in Punta Gorda. The tournament ‹drew some 3,000 competitors and spectators and paid out more than $15,000 in cash and prizes. He’s also done work to help spread the use of circle hooks in the recreational fishery.

With such a well-known figure leading the charge to help save sharks, the species should continue to see more changes and less commercial pressure in the near future.