Analysis

New book highlights global plight of oceanic sharks

The Shark Alliance welcomes the release of Sharks of the Open Ocean, a new book that for the first time, brings together  a wealth of information on the biology, fisheries, population status, and conservation needs of pelagic (open ocean) sharks.  The publication focuses on 12 of these wide-ranging species, including threshers, makos, porbeagles, great whites and blue sharks.  

This authoritative volume contains in-depth contributions from virtually all the world’s pelagic shark experts.  Its chapters document a global problem of overfishing and depletion in most pelagic shark populations.  Some species have already declined by 80-90% and yet remain virtually unprotected. The book offers a sound scientific basis and practical roadmap for corrective action by a variety of policy making bodies.  

“The take-home message is clear: despite their widespread distribution, sharks of the open ocean have suffered serious depletion and current fishing levels are not sustainable,” said lead editor, Dr. Merry Camhi.

Dr. Camhi collaborated with Shark Alliance policy director, Sonja Fordham, and IUCN Shark Specialist Co-Chair, Sarah Fowler, on the book’s management chapter.  In it, they highlight the lack of international restrictions for these wide-ranging species despite the limited reproductive capacity that makes sharks among the seas’ most vulnerable inhabitants. 

The experts note that only one of the 12 species addressed – the great white shark – is listed under international wildlife treaties and protected by several nations.  They highlight the plight of especially depleted populations, such as the North Atlantic porbeagle, and explain how too many finning bans, like that of the EU, are insufficiently stringent to ensure an end to the wasteful practice.

In order to prevent irreparable collapse of shark populations and ensure that shark fisheries are sustainable, the authors call on countries to immediately adopt restrictions on pelagic shark fishing, protection for particularly depleted populations, stronger bans on finning, and a overall higher priority for these species.

“We have the tools to reverse these trends.  If we can muster the will to restrict shark catches and err on the side of caution, we can restore these magnificent predators and thereby improve the health of our oceans,” concluded Camhi.

The management chapter includes a list of specific recommendations for conservation and management actions, many of which are currently under consideration through the developing EU Community Plan of Action for Sharks.

“This landmark book provides timely lessons and advice for EU fishery managers as they develop the region’s long-awaited shark plan,” added Fordham.  “Above all, it demonstrates that even the widest ranging, most prolific shark species are susceptible to overfishing and that stringent limits on catch are essential to the sustainability of shark fisheries.”

Click here to see the book’s complete list of conservation and management recommendations compared to actions proposed in the EU Shark Plan.

Sharks of the Open Ocean is available from March 14 in the United Kingdom and March 28 in the United States. It can be pre-ordered at: