Sharks being unloaded in Peru. Scenes like this are no longer allowed in Palau. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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In many places swimmers might prefer to avoid sharks, but wetsuit-clad tourists in Palau clamor to dive among the predators, thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative that has made sharks one of the country's main visitor attractions.Just a decade ago, dozens of so-called "shark boats" regularly docked in Palau's commercial center Koror, hanging fins to dry from their rigging as they worked to supply a seemingly insatiable demand in Asia for the primary ingredient in shark fin soup.During the height of the trade, an estimated 73 million sharks a year had their fins hacked off and were thrown back into the sea to die.Remengesau said sharks had more value to Palau as ecotourism assets, citing a 2011 study that found a single reef shark could contribute almost $2 million to the economy over its 10-year lifespan via the dive tourists it attracts.
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