Global Shark Conservation

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Working with government leaders, scientists, fisheries experts, diplomats, and even survivors of shark attacks, Pew works to highlight the plight of sharks from overfishing and to urge countries to take action to conserve them.

Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but their long reign at the top of the ocean food chain may be ending. The onset of industrial fishing over the past 60 years has drastically depleted their populations. Of the shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), nearly 50 percent are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

Every year approximately 100 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries.   The catch of shark for their fins, meat, liver oil, cartilage, and other parts remains largely unregulated in most of the world, driving some populations toward extinction.

In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over long lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion. As key predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems. For example, tiger sharks have been linked to the quality of seagrass beds through their prey, dugongs and green sea turtles, which forage in these beds. Without tiger sharks to control their prey’s foraging, an important habitat is lost.

Pew has identified the present moment as a critical time to reverse the global decline of shark populations. We work internationally to influence the fishing nations and treaty organizations that regulate high seas fisheries. In addition, we work with nations whose waters still have diverse populations of sharks to declare shark sanctuaries and to advocate for international shark conservation.

Our Work

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  • Shark Sanctuary Compliance Guide

    Shark populations around the world are in serious trouble. About 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries, and nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction. Coastal and island governments can help turn the tide by creating sanctuaries to protect all shark species within their waters. Shark sanctuaries prohibit all... Read More

  • Return of the Sharks?

    Currently, no catch limits exist for sharks caught on the high seas. In addition, the demand for fins continues to drive the high, unsustainable level of shark trade. Still, many governments are recognizing the need to save sharks and rays from extinction. Read More

  • Protecting Sharks, Enforcing CITES: A Global Effort

    Global shark conservation efforts took a major step forward in 2013, when five shark species and two species of manta ray were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listings brought international protections for regularly traded shark and ray species for the first time. To prepare for the September 2014... Read More

Implementing New Shark Protections Worldwide


Media Contact

Barbara Cvrkel

Officer, Communications