Shark Conservation Efforts Around the Globe

Written by on August 5, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law, Sharks

UPDATE, Aug 14 — California’s Chinese community representatives are working to reverse the law banning the possession and sale of shark fins, saying that it violates federal law. They say the purpose of the law “allegedly is to promote shark conservation,” but they don’t believe it serves that purpose. Read more: California shark fin ban heads to appeals court with federal backing for reversal.

By now, most people have accepted that sharks have much more reason to fear us than we have to fear them. Shark populations around the globe are declining, so what are we doing to protect them?

NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins.

NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins. Photo credit: NOAA.

Shark Conservation in the United States

  • The practice of shark finning (removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark) has been banned in the U.S. since 2000
  • Congress passed the Shark Conservation Act in 2010 that further strengthened shark conservation efforts by requiring that all sharks in the U.S. (except for smooth dogfish and other sharks harvested in U.S. waters) be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached. (Although the integrity of the Shark Conservation Act could be weakened in the near future…)

Local examples:

  • Residents of a town in Martha’s Vineyard recently passed a measure that would protect local sharks from fishermen. They are calling for this year’s Monster Shark Tournament to be the last contest where the sharks can be killed and put on display, hanging from their tails on the docks.
  • New York recently joined the fight against shark finning. Last month, Governor Cuomo signed legislation banning the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins throughout the state. The ban will take effect on July 1, 2014.

Shark Conservation in the European Union

  • Shark finning has technically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, but loopholes in the legislation allowed the practice to continue in some places.
  • Last month, the EU officially adopted a strict ban on shark finning that closes those loopholes. The new rule requires that all sharks landed in EU ports and by EU vessels worldwide must have their fins still naturally attached.

International Shark Conservation

  • At least 17 countries worldwide have similar ‘fin attached’ policies.
  • Earlier this year, five species of sharks gained international protection at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference.
  • The global demand for shark fins is on the decline, particularly in Hong Kong where it used to be a popular dish.
  • A new study found that marine reserves are a useful conservation tool when it comes to shark protection. Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Western Australia found that reef sharks are two to four times more abundant in Fiji’s largest marine reserve than in surrounding areas that allow fishing. The researchers note that sharks aren’t a popular food in Fiji, so the reason for their abundance in the reserve is due to the fact that there are more fish to eat in those areas where fishing is prohibited.
Reef sharks in Fiji.

Reef sharks in Fiji. Photo credit: Tony Shih (ctgintl140) via photopin cc.

To learn more, check out these posts:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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