Bahamas bans commercial shark fishing to protect tourism

The government of the Bahamas said Tuesday it will prohibit all commercial shark fishing in its more than 240,000 square miles of waters.

The decision, announced by Lawrence Cartwright, minister of agriculture and marine resources, came following a media blitz by environmental groups and a petition signed by 5,000 Bahamian residents.

About 40 species of sharks live in the waters of the island nation, whose Bimini chain is only about 50 miles from Miami. Tourism revenue from divers who pay to swim with sharks is estimated at $80 million annually.

Although the Bahamas has banned commercial longline fishing for nearly 20 years and established a network of marine parks, there was no previous law that specifically protected sharks. Then last fall, a Bahamian seafood company floated the idea of exporting sharks to feed the demand for shark fin soup in the Far East. That prompted the Bahamas National Trust — which is comparable to the National Park Service in the U.S. — and the U.S.-based Pew Environmental Group to launch a petition drive and media campaign to push for the shark-fishing ban.

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