Sharks have roamed the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years, but today one-third of the more than 400 shark species are in trouble. Many of these vulnerable animals live in the waters surrounding American Samoa, including oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, whale sharks, and several types of reef sharks. Although American Samoa previously banned shark finning in its territorial waters, it is the only U.S. territory in the Pacific that has not yet banned the possession and trade of sharks and shark parts, including fins, which are in high demand in Asia as an ingredient for soup.
Sharks play an important role in Samoan culture, as seen in proverbs, legends, and traditional fishing practices. They help to maintain a healthy ocean, which the people of Samoa rely on as a source of food. As apex predators, sharks keep the marine ecosystem balanced. For example, sharks build resiliency for coral reefs by eating mid-level predators, thus protecting smaller fish that clean algae from corals. The loss of sharks leads to the loss of commercially valuable species and other reef fish.
The Coalition of Reef Lovers has partnered with American Samoa’s Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG)to support the efforts of the American Samoan government to raise public awareness about the need to protect the sharks there. By safeguarding these animals, we can protect our valuable marine resources.