The announcement, made during the first Pacific Ministerial Shark Symposium in Samoa’s capital Apia, fulfils a commitment made at last year’s UN Ocean Conference.

The move would provide “much-needed relief for declining populations - it will also help prevent further degradation to the health of our oceans,” said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele, adding that the decision would attract tourists to encounter sharks and rays in their natural habitat.

The move was, he said “inspired by the success of our Pacific-island neighbours… we will not sit idly by while the demand for shark products robs our future generations of these culturally, ecologically and economically valuable species.”

Samoa is the eighth Pacific-island nation to establish a shark sanctuary in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), joining Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands, which together cover an area of 6.5 million square miles.

Samoa is much the smallest with an EEZ of 50,000sq miles, but is the first Pacific addition in three years. Other shark sanctuaries are mainly in the Caribbean, Bahamas and the Maldives.

* SHARK RESEARCHERS from Florida Atlantic University observing the biggest annual migration in US coastal waters have reported a dramatic drop in numbers of blacktip sharks heading south along the state’s east coast. The blacktips, which return north every spring, have in the past numbered as many as 15,000.

Researchers track the sharks by boat, aircraft, acoustic monitoring devices and drones. The mass movement is said to have positive effects on coral reefs and seagrass beds as the sharks feed along their route.

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