BONAIRE–Caribbean nations agreed last week to add two more species to the annexes of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol, the only transnational legal instrument for the environment of the Caribbean. At the insistence of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, regional SPAW member governments unanimously decided to recommend Large-Tooth Sawfish and Silky Sharks for (obligatory) protection under SPAW.
“We are very pleased that our proposals could count on so much support,” said Paul Hoetjes, Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality LNV coordinator of nature policy for the Caribbean Netherlands. “Through the SPAW protocol, signatory countries have made firm commitments to ensure the protection of these unique animals.”
A study was published just this week classing the Large-Tooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) as the elasmobranch species most in danger of extinction. Human activities like overfishing and destruction of vital habitats such as coral reefs and mangrove forests have caused this decline.
The numbers of Silky Sharks have been severely reduced by overfishing around the world and protection is now needed to prevent further decline.
The Dutch Elasmobranch Association NEV worked closely with the Ministry of LNV, providing the scientific input for the proposals and ensuring they were aligned with other international standards.
NEV Director Irene Kingma said: “In 2015 we started working with the Kingdom of the Netherlands on protection of sharks and rays under SPAW. We are very happy to continue this partnership with the formulation of the proposals for these iconic species.”
“We are elated to see that these two very important species can now gain legal protection in the Caribbean Sea and look forward to the listing of additional species, making the Caribbean a global safe-haven for elasmobranchs,” said Tadzio Bervoets, leader of the Save our Sharks Project of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, funded by the Dutch Post Code Lottery.
The adoption of the proposal is an important first step toward permanent inclusion in the protocol. The final decision will take place at the SPAW Conference of the Parties in March, after which the protection will come into force.