Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cook Islands' shark sanctuary creates world's largest

As shark numbers fall, other species further down the food chain are put at risk

The Cook Islands has approved a shark sanctuary in its waters, making for the largest such sanctuary in the world.

The South Pacific island chain declared a 1.9 million-sq-km sanctuary, contiguous with one established last week by neighbouring French Polynesia.

That sees a ban on shark fishing and possession or sale of shark products in an area now totalling 6.7 million sq km - nearly the size of Australia.

As top predators, overfishing of sharks disrupts complex oceanic food webs.

And about a third of ocean-going sharks appear on the internationally-recognised Red List of Threatened Species.

"We are proud as Cook Islanders to provide our entire exclusive economic zone... as a shark sanctuary," said Teina Bishop, Cook Islands minister of marine resources.

"We join our Pacific neighbours to protect this animal, which is very vital to the health of our oceans, and our culture."

Other island nations with sanctuaries also include Palau, the Maldives, Tokelau, Honduras and the Bahamas.

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