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The Cook Islands has approved a shark sanctuary in its waters, making for the largest such sanctuary in the world.

The South Pacific island chain declared a 1.9 million-sq-km sanctuary, contiguous with one established last week by neighbouring French Polynesia.

That sees a ban on shark fishing and possession or sale of shark products in an area now totalling 6.7 million sq km – nearly the size of Australia.

As top predators, overfishing of sharks disrupts complex oceanic food webs.

And about a third of ocean-going sharks appear on the internationally-recognised Red List of Threatened Species.

"We are proud as Cook Islanders to provide our entire exclusive economic zone… as a shark sanctuary," said Teina Bishop, Cook Islands minister of marine resources.