In the warm clear waters of the Bahamas, a Hawksbill Sea Turtle just nearly escapes a close encounter with a large Tiger Shark. Today, the future looks bright not only for this sea turtle, but for the shark as well. In 2011, the numerous shark species which call the Bahamian waters, home were able to swim with a sign of relief as the nation announced a federal protection status on all sharks! In the country’s 630,000 square kilometers of marine area, commercial shark fishing had been officially banned.
Just one year after the creation of the shark sanctuary, the world witnessed just how important the protected area is to globally threatened species. In this short time, scientists saw the return of Oceanic White Tip Sharks to these waters; a species that that been nearly depleted from Bahamian seas, due to overfishing, prior to the ban. Sharks are important because they play a crucial role in maintaining healthy coastal ecosystem. Other important species depend on sharks to prey on and remove the weak and sick animals, allowing healthier fish to thrive in their place. I am optimistic for the future of sharks as we see other countries, such as the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Honduras following in the footsteps of the Bahamas and creating marine protected areas of their own.