Advocating for International Protections
As stronger science becomes available, more countries worldwide are recognizing the value sharks play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. However, despite the recent gains made internationally to protect shark species, there are still countries that have no finning regulations of any kind, and illegal trade and catch are notoriously hard to track and stop.
Lack of regulation for shark finning and poor fishing practices result in millions of sharks being killed every year in legal and illegal fisheries, decimating shark populations around the world. As migratory species, sharks cannot be protected from overexploitation by individual countries; they must be protected by regional and international treaties that regulate fisheries and international commerce.
What We Are Doing
Many countries are increasingly recognizing the need to regulate and control international trade in shark products, including fins, to decrease the volume of sharks caught each year as well as put a stop to illegal take of sharks. Thanks in great part to our international education and advocacy efforts, five shark species and two Manta species have already gained international regulation through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Having worked with Latin American countries and federal agencies in the United States to gain support for requesting international protections for five critically endangered shark species — three hammerheads, oceanic white-tip, and porbeagle — and we are now working actively with officials from those nations to put practices in place to comply with the new regulations.
Defenders is also working with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna and the InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission to ensure stricter conservation measures to prevent shark deaths as bycatch and at the Convention of Migratory Species to obtain additional conservation measures.
Size: The spined pygmy shark, a deep-sea shark, is one of the smallest at only about 7-8 inches, while the whale shark is the largest shark, and fish, at about 50 feet in length.
Lifespan: Although lifespan varies by shark species, most sharks are long-lived and generally tend to live for 20-30 years. Species like the spiny dogfish and the whale shark are believed to live for over 100 years!