Mexico is Saving Sharks While Australia Kills Them

Great white shark. Photo courtesy Neil Hammerschlag.
Great white shark. Photo courtesy Neil Hammerschlag.

There was great news out of Mexico this week when the Mexican government announced a permanent ban on fishing for great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). The measure applies to national waters on both coasts and is notable because it means that white sharks caught accidentally – bycatch – by commercial or recreational fishermen must be immediately released back into the sea.

This announcement builds on Mexico’s commitment in 2011to ban all shark and stingray fishing starting in 2012. Where the earlier commitment was viewed as a temporary moratorium, the new ban will offer permanent protection.

Great whites (most sharks and rays for that matter) grow slowly, live long lives, and don’t reproduce often; all characteristics that make them incredibly vulnerable as a species. We can applaud Mexico for this show of leadership, even more so when you consider the other news hitting the headlines about great whites.

Western Australia has begun a shark cull, purportedly to prevent future shark attacks and as a result of the seven fatal shark attacks that have occurred in Western Australian waters over the past three years. Yet, not only is there no proof that culls prevent attacks, the cull goes against state, federal, and international laws.

The killing began last weekend, and the controversy is heating up as news outlets around the world are picking up the story and activists are taking direct action to remove bait from the fishing lines set for the sharks. Let’s hope the local government comes to its senses before activists are jailed or, maybe more importantly, any more sharks are killed.

Changing Planet

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Valerie Craig is Deputy to the Chief Scientist and Vice President of Operating Programs for National Geographic Society. She has strategic and operational oversight for the series of flagship programs and projects that are helping to achieve the Society's ambitious targets to deliver on the vision. She previously worked on ocean and freshwater issues for National Geographic's Impact Initiatives and Explorer Programs and oversaw the Lindblad-National Geographic Fund. Prior to joining NGS in May 2011, Valerie led TRAFFIC North America’s marine fisheries trade work, focusing on issues of legality and traceability in the seafood supply chain. Valerie earned a Master's of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and has a Bachelor’s in International Relations.