The 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks) by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) is an opportune time to reflect on global progress in managing shark fisheries. The members of COFI agreed explicitly in the implementation section of the IPOA that all States should strive “…to have a Shark-plan by the COFI Session in 2001,” that “States which implement the Shark-plan should regularly, at least every four years, assess its implementation for the purpose of identifying cost-effective strategies for increasing its effectiveness,” and that “States should report on the progress of the assessment, development and implementation of their Shark-plans as part of their biennial reporting to FAO on the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.” (FAO 1999) None of those elements of the IPOA-Sharks have been properly implemented.
Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation because of their biological characteristics of maturing late, having few young and being long-lived. Action on sharks by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), international treaties
such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and shark catching countries and entities has been prompted by increasing international concern about shark stocks as a result of a growing body of evidence that many shark species are threatened and continuing to decline because of unregulated fishing. This report assesses the nature and extent of management measures in place for sharks by the Top 20 “shark catchers” identified from shark catch data provided to the FAO.