Palau Creates World's First Shark Sanctuary

Publication: Associated Press

Author: John Heilprin


09/24/2009 - The tiny Pacific nation of Palau is creating the world's first shark sanctuary, a biological hotspot to protect great hammerheads, leopard sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and more than 130 other species fighting extinction in the Pacific Ocean.

But with only one boat to patrol 240,000 square miles (621,600 square kilometers) of Palau's newly protected waters—including its exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, that extends 200 miles (320 kilometers) from its coastline—enforcement of the new measure could be almost like swimming against the tide.

Palau's president, who is to announce the news to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, acknowledges the difficulty of patrolling ocean waters nearly the size of Texas or France with a single boat. But he hopes others will respect Palauan territorial waters—and that the shark haven inspires more such conservation efforts globally.

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"Palau has basically raised the bar for the rest of the world for shark conservation," said Matt Rand, director for global shark conservation for Washington-based Pew Environment Group, an advocacy organization.

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