On 19 December 2012 the Cook Islands designated 1.2 million km2 of its waters as a sanctuary for sharks, becoming one of the world’s largest continuous shark sanctuaries.
The Marine Resources Shark Conservation Regulations were established under the Marine Resources Act 2005.
The sanctuary protects sharks from targeted fishing and aims to prevent the possession, sale, and trade of shark parts and products. Heavy fines can be imposed on violators found with any part of a shark onboard their vessel. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major threat to the health of shark and ray populations and other ocean life around the world. More than 20 shark species inhabiting these waters are now protected from overexploitation.
A National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks in the Cook Islands was established in 2012 to seek and promote a rational approach, based on scientific evidence and application of the precautionary principle, to the conservation and management of shark resources in order to maintain stocks at sustainable levels and protect the biological diversity of the marine environment.