Dispatch From Pohnpei: Training to Enforce Shark Protections

Dispatch From Pohnpei: Training to Enforce Shark Protections

By Jen Sawada

shrk-sawada-handcuffs-150-TE.jpgPOHNPEI, Micronesia—It is dusk on Oct. 4 in the seaside village of Kolonia.  I walk toward the pier to meet fishermen carrying a cooler of shark fins for sale. In a matter of seconds, we are surrounded by dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers.  Although I know this is just a training exercise, and the fins in the cooler are made of cardboard, I am still somewhat terrified and throw my hands up. I have been caught engaging in an illegal activity: buying shark fins in Pohnpei, one of the four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia, or FSM, in the western Pacific Ocean.

shrk-training-cuffs-581-TE.jpg

Pohnpei passed a law in June 2013 that banned the possession, sale, and distribution of shark fins. As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, but a recent study estimates that about 100 million of them are killed every year in commercial fisheries. FSM and other Pacific governments are recognizing the need for national shark protections.

To aid implementation of the new law, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei and the Micronesia Conservation Trust recently conducted a five-day conservation enforcement and compliance training session here in Pohnpei.  The Pew Charitable Trusts and the APOC Fund, a donor-advised fund at the Boston Foundation, provided support for the program.

By the end of the training, more than 70 community conservation officers—volunteers from local villages—and officers from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Public Safety were trained in monitoring marine protected areas and enforcing shark protections.  Participants learned basic skills, such as handcuffing and evidence processing and were able to practice these them in a safe setting.

 

shrk-boat-629-TE.jpg

As a result of this training, community volunteers and state enforcement officers better understand what activities are prohibited under the new shark law. And they know how to coordinate and communicate when they suspect that violations have occurred so they can ensure the apprehension and prosecution of offenders.

shrk-andrews-641-TE.jpg

Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Yap—three of the four states that make up FSM—have implemented shark protection laws in recent years. Chuuk, the fourth, is in the process of passing similar legislation. With almost all state jurisdiction waters protected, FSM's Congress has introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a full shark sanctuary that would prohibit commercial shark fishing in the nation's entire exclusive economic zone. The Pohnpei enforcement agencies will be able to use the skills they gained from the training session to enforce that shark sanctuary as well.

shrk-pohnpei-peak-588-TE.jpg

Jen Sawada is a member of The Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation team.

The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.
ian-hutchinson-U8WfiRpsQ7Y-unsplash.jpg_master

Agenda for America

A collection of resources to help federal, state, and local decision-makers set an achievable agenda for all Americans

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest. In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.

Lightbulbs
Lightbulbs

States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.