Sharks have inhabited Earth’s oceans for 400 million years, but today they are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The main threats are overfishing, which includes deliberately capturing them to sell their shark fins and accidentally catching them when fishing for other species. Altogether, the number of sharks killed each year is approximately 73 million and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, an estimated 32 percent of open-ocean sharks are now threatened with extinction.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Sharks
Since 2002, Defenders of Wildlife has been a member of Mexico’s Technical Working Group, which drafted the regulations that went into effect in 2007 to ban shark finning, ban the use of drift nets, and create ten shark reserve areas in the Pacific, among other conservation measures.
Working with other NGOs, we have educated members of the fishing industry by creating comic books that teach them about the importance of shark conservation and conducting training workshops to inform them about the new shark fishery regulations. In 2012, we produced a poster to promote great white shark conservation among fishermen around the Baja Peninsula.
Under CITES, we have pushed to secure protections for several species to control international trade. Our successes include the listing of three endangered shark species as well as all of the sawfishes, which are members of the shark family. We are now demanding protections of more shark species like the hammerhead sharks, the oceanic white tip shark and others. To this end we are creating regional shark identification guides to help fishermen identify species and comply with CITES regulations.