First up for Operation Requiem, the South Pacific, where the team and the Brigitte Bardot are headed in June.
The South Pacific is an incredibly rich and important ecosystem for both on shore and open ocean sharks. Shark populations have historically been diverse and plentiful. The people of the South Pacific have long respected sharks as a part of the ocean environment that is their home and an integral part of their culture. They have a keen understanding of the importance of sharks in the health of the reefs and in "refereeing" the various fish populations that all Pacific Islanders rely upon for food. Much is being done in terms of shark protection – including many new and potential shark sanctuaries. Additionally, healthy local shark populations result in over $42 million a year in tourism in Fiji alone. And sadly, many illegal poachers and international longliners have set their sights on this area, whose waters are often unprotected, disrupting local economies and ecosystems. This is why the South Pacific is an important place for our focus and campaign.
We've made offers to several South Pacific Island nations and this trip is one of assessment and diplomacy - to kick off our overarching campaign. We'll be building relationships, identifying areas we can be of the greatest assistance, and calling attention to the issues facing sharks.
By understanding the issues surrounding sharks and conservation and engaging in diplomacy and outreach, we can lay the foundation for our long-term commitment to the area. Our goal will be rallying popular support, partnering with other Conservation efforts, such as shark sanctuaries currently under consideration, and the South Pacific Island nations, to find economically viable and realistic strategies to protect sharks. And determine how Sea Shepherd can help.
Sadly, enforcement falls on the shoulders of governments, often under resourced and over worked – which means many laws passed by well-meaning organizations are not being effectively executed, and thus sharks remain under attack. That's where we come in. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) recognizes the importance of apex predators, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems to the continuing health and prosperity of small Island nations - not to mention the rest of the planet.
We'd like to engage in partnerships and explore how our resources can help maintain healthy shark populations. Ideally, we want the South Pacific continue to be known around the world as a paradise due to their commitment to the marine environment and the resulting rich and abundant ocean resources, healthy shark populations, and beautiful coral reefs.
This trip will promote our commitment to shark conservation, give us critical insight, and prove that Sea Shepherd can and do empower locals collaboratively and positively to take back their sharks.