© Ed Gullekson

Advocating for International Species

Protecting Sharks

Sharks have inhabited Earth’s oceans for 400 million years. Today they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The main threat to sharks is overfishing, which includes deliberately capturing them (often to sell their fins) and accidentally catching them when fishing for other species (known as bycatch). An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year and, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an estimated 32 percent of shark species are threatened with extinction.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Sharks

Since 2002, Defenders of Wildlife has been a member of Mexico’s Technical Working Group, which drafted the regulations that went into effect in 2007 to ban shark finning, ban the use of drift nets, and create ten shark reserve areas in the Pacific, among other conservation measures.

Working in collaboration with other NGOs, Defenders has educated members of the fishing industry on how to properly identify and report sharks that are caught. In 2014, Defenders co-organized and participated in an international training and capacity building workshop in Colombia to help representatives of many different countries learn the most effective methods to identify, track and report sharks caught after several regional species were listed under CITES. 

To further encourage protection of sharks, we created identification materials now used in many Spanish-speaking countries, from shark species identification guides, to comic books educating children about shark conservation. 

In addition, Defenders has worked in both CITES and CMS to secure international protections for sharks. In 2013, Defenders was part of the collective effort to successfully list three shark species and all sawfishes under CITES. In 2014, Defenders collaborated for the successful listing of 21 species of sharks and rays under CMS. Domestically, Defenders has recently begun petitioning the National Marine Fisheries Service to list shark species under the Endangered Species Act.