Palau pioneers 'shark sanctuary'
National Shark Sanctuary - Palau
Palau is to create the world's first "shark sanctuary", banning all commercial shark fishing in its waters.
The President of the tiny Pacific republic, Johnson Toribiong, announced the sanctuary during Friday's session of the UN General Assembly.
With half of the world's oceanic sharks at risk of extinction, conservationists regard the move as "game-changing".
It will protect about 600,000 sq km (230,000 sq miles) of ocean, an area about the size of France.
President Toribiong also called for a global ban on shark-finning, the practice of removing the fins at sea.
The need to protect the sharks outweighs the need to enjoy a bowl of soup
President Johnson Toribiong
Fins are a lucrative commodity on the international market where they are bought for use in shark fin soup.
As many as 100 million sharks are killed each year around the world.
"These creatures are being slaughtered and are perhaps at the brink of extinction unless we take positive action to protect them," said President Toribiong.
"Their physical beauty and strength, in my opinion, reflects the health of the oceans; they stand out," he told BBC News from UN headquarters in New York.
The president also called for an end to bottom-trawling, a fishing method that can destroy valuable seafloor ecosystems such as coral reefs.
On September 25, 2009 Palau declared itself the world's first National Shark Sanctuary and
called for an international ban on shark-finning.
Historic and important...
Remarks by President Toribiong:
"An equally destructive fishing practice is shark-finning. We have banned it in Palau and call upon the world to address this issue in order to save the sharks from extinction.
"The strength and beauty of sharks are a natural barometer for the health of our oceans. Therefore, I declare today that Palau will become the world's first national shark sanctuary, ending all commercial shark fishing in our waters and giving a sanctuary for sharks to live and reproduce unmolested in our 237,000 square miles of ocean. We call upon all nations to join us."
Palau, thanking the President Toribiong:
Dear President Toribiong,
We congratulate and offer our deep gratitude to you and to the people of Palau for your courageous and intelligent creation of the National Shark Sanctuary in Palau.
We agree with your statement, Mr. President, that "the strength and beauty of sharks are a natural barometer for the health of our oceans".
We realize this is just a beginning and we support Palau in its desire to diligently enforce, as well as seek international assistance to enforce, these new shark protections.
We also want to acknowledge the efforts of the Palaun organizations whose efforts helped to create the National Shark Sanctuary. The Belau Tourism Association, Palau Visitors Authority, and Palau Chamber of Commerce faciliated the efforts of Shark Savers and other NGOs and individuals as we sought to defeat Palau Senate Bill 8-44, which threatened to re-open commercial shark fishing. The Palau Shark Sanctuary is an NGO that has worked for years to establish the National Shark Sanctuary in Palau.
BBC NEWS By Richard Black
SHARK SAVERS http://www.sharksavers.org/
President Toribiong arriving at Koror International Airport, Palau to a welcome reception organized by Palau Shark Sanctuary. Photo: www.oceanwonders.org
National Shark Sanctuary - Palau www.sharksanctuary.com/
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