Leave sharks in peace, nations plead

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Tiny Palau and Honduras on Wednesday declared that their ocean waters are shark-infested - and they want the rest of the world to jump right in.

The presidents of the two tiny countries met in New York to sign a declaration urging other coastal nations to join them in declaring their waters havens for the ocean's increasingly threatened predator.

"We cannot stand idly by while sharks are eradicated," Palau's President Johnson Toribiong and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said in the declaration, coinciding with a UN summit on poverty and biodiversity.

"We believe it is in the long interest of our countries to have healthy ocean ecosystems, which is not possible without healthy shark populations."

Environmental activists say that 73 million sharks are killed annually just to feed Asia's appetite for shark fin soup. Massive over-exploitation has reduced the number of large predatory fish by 90 percent in the last 50 years.

Last year Palau created the world's first national shark sanctuary and Honduras followed this year.

"We feel very proud to be protecting our environment," Lobo said.

Toribiong said sharks needed to be seen as a precious part of the ocean, not a source of mass food - and certainly not a threat.

"Sharks are beautiful beasts of the ocean of the ocean," he said. "Without sharks, the health of the ocean would deteriorate. I believe that in the chain of life, if one link is missing, human beings at the top of the chain would suffer."

In their joint declaration, the two presidents noted that a "live shark is worth far more than a dead shark" thanks to its potential in attracting divers to coral reefs.

The presidents cited a study that found a single reef shark had a renewable value of more than 33,000 dollars a year, but was worth only 32 dollars to a fisherman if caught and killed.

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