Jan 28

A 10-year-old international plan to conserve sharks has largely failed according to a report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and the Pew Environment Group

Only 13 of the top 20 shark-catching countries have developed national plans to protect the endangered creatures. The authors of the report have urged an FAO fisheries committee meeting next week to urgently review the management of shark fisheries.

Photo of juvenile blacktip shark caught on longline hook

Juvenile blacktip shark caught on longline hook

Shark populations have been falling worldwide, mostly due to overfishing to satisfy demand for shark fin soup in East Asia. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year, with nearly a third of species at risk of extinction. 

In 2001, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) approved an international plan aimed at conserving sharks after it found that a serious monitoring and control program was lacking for international shark trade. 

The 10 recommendations to governments agreed back in 2001 included identifying and protecting key shark habitats, ensuring catches are sustainable and minimising waste and discards.

Photo of fisherman holding dorsal fin cut from scalloped hammerhead

Fisherman holding dorsal fin cut from scalloped hammerhead

Indonesia alone catches 13 percent of the world’s sharks, according to the report, and other big catchers include India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, the United States, Japan and Malaysia. The top 20 shark-catching nations collectively account for 80% of the global shark catch. 

“With 30 percent of shark species now threatened or near threatened with extinction, there is little evidence that the plan has contributed significantly to improved conservation and management of these animals,”  TRAFFIC said in a statement.

Photo of dead tiger shark caught in beach protection net

Dead tiger shark caught in beach protection net

Many sharks are top predators, and there is an abundance of biological evidence to show their removal can have major impacts on the rest of the ecosystem. 

“Where shark populations are healthy, marine life beneath the waves thrives; but where they have been overfished we see that world fall out of balance,” said Jill Hepp, Pew’s global shark conservation manager. 

“Shark-catching countries and entities must stand by their commitments and act now to conserve and protect these animals.” 

Watch a video of tiger sharks attacking black-footed albatrosses on ARKive

To read more on this story and download the report, see the TRAFFIC article

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author