Shark Sanctuaries Around the World
Protecting shark populations
Note: This fact sheet was updated in November 2017 to reflect newly established sanctuaries.
Shark sanctuaries are useful tools for coastal and island governments seeking to reduce shark mortality in their waters. At least 100 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries every year. Sanctuary designations typically prohibit the commercial fishing of all sharks, the retention of sharks caught as bycatch, and the possession, trade, and sale of sharks and shark products within a country’s full exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Some also ban fishing gear typically used to target sharks, such as wire leaders and shark lines. Because of the role that sharks play in maintaining ocean health, protecting them with sanctuaries provides ecosystem, environmental, cultural, and economic benefits.
In 2009, Palau designated its national waters as the world’s first shark sanctuary. Today, a total of 15 sanctuaries have been created around the world. In 2015, nations and territories in the western Pacific Ocean linked their efforts to create the first regional sanctuary in Micronesia. Collectively, these protected areas spread across more than 19 million square kilometers (7.34 million square miles), an area larger than South America.