Maldives sets up zones to protect whale sharks

Wednesday, 10 June 2009 08:45

The Maldives has marked three sea protected areas that limit fishing and diving to safeguard rare whale sharks in waters around the islands, the government said Tuesday.
Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam announced the protected zones to mark the World Ocean Day, which fell Monday. The zones will have only limited fishing, while strict guidelines apply to diving and snorkeling.

Speed limits will be imposed on boats to prevent lacerations on the shark, and waste management programs will be initiated in surrounding islands to stop pollution, a government statement said.

"The marine environment is the bedrock of our economy, supporting our largest industries, tourism and fisheries. Not only will this initiative protect whale sharks, but also other mega fauna including manta rays and reef sharks," the statement quoted Aslam as saying.

Whale sharks _ the world's largest fish species _ are listed as a threatened species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the world's largest conservation network.

Considered harmless, the whale shark can live up to 100 years and can grow to 46 feet (14 meters) long _ as long as a bus. It is normally found in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Maldives Whale Shark Research Program has counted 120 whale sharks and said they could be seen throughout the year around the islands.

In March, the Indian Ocean archipelago banned reef shark hunting to bolster its tourism industry.


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