Palau has declared itself as the world's first shark sanctuary, ending all commercial shark fishing in its waters and inviting other nations to follow suit.

According to Fijilive, Palau made the announcement last month in a speech to the United Nations.
President Johnson Toribiong unveiled details of the sanctuary in his speech, describing sharks as "a natural barometer for the health of our oceans" and appealed to world leaders to join Palau's effort to protect the sharks.

However, according to the report, the small country, which presides over rich fishing grounds, 'has only one patrol ship to enforce the sanctuary in Palau's 621,600 square kilometre (237,000 square mile) exclusive economic zone, an area about the size of France'.

"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," he said.
"We call upon all nations to join us."

According to the report, about 130 shark species are found in Palau's waters and according to Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group's global shark conservation campaign, more than one third of the world's shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction.

Palau came to prominence as a shark campaigner in 2003 with the introduction of anti-shark fishing legislation which carries a 250,000 dollar fine for fishing, mutilation and transport of sharks in Palau waters.

Then president Tommy Remengesau Jr. staged a spectacular protest that same year when he publicly set fire to shark fins seized from a foreign vessel found in Palau waters.

However, shark fishing remains a lucrative business, especially with the demand in parts of Asia for shark's fin soup, and a recent flyover of Palau waters found more than 70 foreign fishing vessels, many of them operating illegally.

"It is anomalous that Palau is experiencing economic difficulty while it sits in the middle of the richest waters in the world. We can no longer stand by while foreign vessels illicitly come to our waters," Toribiong said.