Shark sanctuaries are one of the most effectives means to combatting shark species depletion. Shark sanctuaries are a newer concept, but have quickly become a very popular way to protect vulnerable shark species. These sanctuaries are established right where sharks live and provide a variety of protections. In these areas, commercial fishing of sharks is forbidden and come with legal penalties. There are also restrictions about environmental use in the areas. Shark tourism is allowed however in these areas, so to support conservation and to see some amazing shark species, add these 14 shark sanctuaries to your bucket list:
Palau: 233,317 sq mi (604, 289 sq km), Established In 2009
The Palau Shark Sanctuary was the first in the world. The government established this sanctuary in coordination with conservationists and shark biologists in response to the brutal practice of shark species that were putting their vulnerable species at serious risk of extinction. The Palau Shark Sanctuary protects 135 different species of sharks including Reef Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and Nurse Sharks.
Maldives: 353,742 sq mi (916,189 sq km), Established In 2010
The Maldives followed shortly after with their own shark sanctuary. Shark finning in the region was killing off sharks vital to the health of the coral reefs. Also, the government found that many tourists wanted to see some of the amazing sharks found in the waters around the Maldives like the Hammerhead Sharks, Reef Sharks, and Angel Sharks.
Marshall Islands: 769,205 sq mi (1,992,232 sq km), Established In 2011
The shark sanctuary in the Marshall Islands is not only the largest but carries the heaviest penalties for shark fishing. At this amazing, massive shark sanctuary you can see some of the most popular sharks in the world including Whale Sharks, Great White Sharks, and the Shortfin Mako Shark.
Honduras: 92,757 sq mi (240,240 sq km), Established In 2011
The shark sanctuary in Honduras was established as a result of both overfishing and overblown public concerns over shark attacks in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It was established both to protect sharks but to also educate the population on the amazing benefits of sharks. At this sanctuary you can free dive with Whale Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and Reef Sharks in a gorgeous coral reef.
The Bahamas: 242, 971 sq mi (629,293 sq km), Established In 2011
The Bahamas has long had a booming shark tourism industry. People come from all over the world to dive with sharks. In the shark sanctuary in the Bahamas you can dive with all manner of sharks from Bull Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and a variety of Reef Sharks, in warm tropical waters.
Cook Islands: 756,812 sq mi (1,960,135 sq km), Established In 2012
The Cook Islands have over 18 different species of sharks, several of which are critically endangered. The shark sanctuary was established to protect the most vulnerable and give these sharks a chance to reproduce and replenish the species. At this sanctuary you can see Hammerheads, White-Tip reef Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and Whale Sharks.
French Polynesia: 1,840,642 sq mi (4,767,242 sq km), Established In 2012
French Polynesia established the second largest shark sanctuary in the world because of the severe depletion of shark species from shark finning practices. This sanctuary boasts some of the great dive and shark watching experiences in the world, especially in the late summer months. At this sanctuary you can see Reef Sharks, the Great Hammerhead, and the infamous Great White Shark.
New Caledonia: 480,697 sq mi (1,245,000 sq km), Established In 2013
New Caledonia is home to the Cook Reef, which is an amazing area of biodiversity. They established a shark sanctuary to protect the reef and encourage shark tourism. At the New Caledonia shark sanctuary you can see Reef Sharks, Whitetip Sharks, Nurse Sharks, and Tiger Sharks.
British Virgin Islands: 30,933 sq mi (80,117 sq km), Established In 2014
The British Virgin Islands is another area that has a booming shark tourism industry. So establishing a shark sanctuary does not only protect these vulnerable creatures, but helps protect their economy. Some of the amazing shark species you can see at this sanctuary include Lemon Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Bull Sharks, and Blacktip Sharks.
Federated States Of Micronesia: 1,155,448 sq mi (2,992,597 sq km), Established In 2015
The Federated States of Micronesia shark sanctuary is the third largest in the world. Like other sanctuaries, this was established to protect sharks against the brutal practice of shark finning. At this sanctuary you can see Silky Sharks, Reef Sharks, and the mysterious Thresher Shark.
Cayman Islands: 45,998 sq mi (119,134 sq km), Established In 2015
The Cayman Island sanctuary was established to help build public interest in sharks. After many tourists started recording shark sightings along the public beaches, people begun to be afraid to swim in the waters. The shark sanctuary has turned that fear into enthusiasm as shark tourists from all over the world come to see Hammerheads, Reef Sharks, and even shark breeding grounds.
Bonaire: 3,747 sq mi (9,706 sq km), Established In 2015
The Bonaire sanctuary is one of the three smallest in the world. However, the waters around Bonaire are densely populated with all kinds of shark species. At this sanctuary you can see Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, and Nurse Sharks.
Saba: 3,102 sq mi (8,033 sq km), Established In 2016
Saba’s shark sanctuary is part of their larger effort to establish a marine park that protects all the ocean species. At this sanctuary you can see Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks, and Nurse Sharks swimming alongside of other incredible ocean wildlife.
Sint Maarten: 193 sq mi (499 sq km), Established In 2016
The Sint Maarten sanctuary may be the smallest in the world, but there is plenty to see in this easy to navigate area. There are a lot of different species of sharks to see in this densely populated area including Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks, and Nurse Sharks.
These shark sanctuaries definitely belong on the bucket list of any shark lover. Not only will you be able to see a variety of different shark species at them, but by visiting them you will be supporting global shark conservation. So when you’re planning your next trip, consider going to one of these amazing sanctuaries.