PROTECTING SHARKS FROM EXTINCTION
Why protect sharks?
Over 500 known species
Up to 11 tons
From molluscs, fish, to marine mammals
Seas and oceans, from the warm shallows of coral reef lagoons to the cold depths of the open ocean
TOP 20 SHARK CATCHERS (2007-2017)
THREATS TO THEIR SURVIVAL
HABITAT LOSS AND DESTRUCTION
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How many sharks are at risk?Tens of million sharks are killed every year, and some populations have declined by more than 95%. Based on IUCN's assessment in 2021, nearly one-third of all known species of sharks faced extinction, mostly because of overfishing, and that figure is undoubtedly higher today.
What is overfishing?Overfishing means catching marine species faster than they can reproduce, resulting in declining populations of those species.
What is bycatch?Bycatch is the incidental capture of non-target species during fishing process. It affects many species, including sharks, dolphins, and marine turtles. It is also one of the greatest threats to the marine environment, wasting a valuable natural resource and causing dramatic declines in populations of many marine species.
What is shark finning?Shark finning is the practice of cutting off shark’s fins and discarding the body of the shark back to the water. This practice is not only unethical and cruel—because the shark may still be alive when thrown overboard—but also unsustainable and wasteful given that only a small part of the animal that has already been killed or will eventually die is being used.
Which countries consume the most shark fins/shark meat?The biggest consumers of shark fin are found in East and Southeast Asia, including China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The world’s largest consumers of shark meat are found in South America and Europe, with four major importers (and so consumers) including Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, and Italy.
What's WWF's position on shark finning?WWF is against finning of sharks and rays. This unethical, cruel, unsustainable, and wasteful practice has no place on our blue planet.
For existing fisheries that take sharks and rays, WWF supports the implementation of ‘fins-naturally-attached’ policy in an effort to push those fisheries towards sustainability. (‘Fins-naturally-attached’ means that fishers have to bring in whole sharks or rays with fins still attached to the body to the shore.) Implementing this policy helps with identifying species, which are being caught and generally makes it possible to monitor catches, supporting long-term management and conservation of sharks and rays.
Is there an international strategy for conserving sharks?Yes, WWF have joined forces with TRAFFIC, WCS, the Shark Trust, Shark Advocates International and advised by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, developed a global 10-year strategy to stop the declines of sharks and rays around the world.The goal of this global strategy is that by 2025, "the conservation status of the world’s sharks and rays has improved – declines have been halted, extinctions have been prevented, and commitments to their conservation have increased globally". To achieve this, an ambitious, holistic approach is required across four concurrent and interconnected strategies, which are:- Saving shark and ray species from extinction- Managing existing shark and ray fisheries for sustainability- Responsible trade in shark and ray products- Responsible consumption of shark and ray products.
What is CITES?CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It’s an international agreement between governments to protect endangered plants and animals – ensuring the trade of them doesn’t threaten their survival.CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
Can the CITES process prevent shark extinction?While CITES is not the ‘silver bullet’ that will save all sharks and rays from extinction, it certainly can provide a driver to stimulate conservation efforts. A CITES listing on its own is no guarantee of greater protection for populations threatened by overfishing.
Bans on capture and trade can help, but ultimately need to be part of a package of measures that prevent unsustainable fishing mortality, and where necessary allow populations to recover. A dual approach of protecting critical habitats (such as establishing Marine Protected Areas) for the listed species and reducing their bycatch in multi-species fisheries in neighbouring areas has a lot to offer. This will continue to be a key area of focus for WWF in our efforts to support countries in implementing CITES for sharks and rays in years to come.