Sharks & Rays: Restoring the Balance
Modern forms of sharks and rays first emerged over 150 million years ago. But the introduction of modern fishing techniques has spelled disaster for these ancient creatures.
Irresponsible and unsustainable fishing practices has led to a massive decline in shark numbers—a huge jolt to ocean ecosystems in little over 50 years.
The most serious declines have been in the Coral Triangle and the Mediterranean.
Many shark species are slow growing, late to mature and produce few young, making them highly susceptible to over-fishing.
Sharks are caught both for their fins—eaten as a delicacy in sharks fin soup in Asia, and for their meat, with Europe a major market.
Removal of these key predators from the food chain has serious consequences for marine ecosystems, which in turn has repercussions for people everywhere, threatening local livelihoods and food security.
Our recent work on sharks & rays
In 2009, TRAFFIC drew attention to the risks posed to sharks of allowing deepwater gillnetting in waters governed by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO). The use of such techniques were subsequently banned.
At the 2013 Conference of the Parties to CITES (CITES CoP15), TRAFFIC supported ultimately successful proposals to list seven shark and two manta ray species within the Appendices of the Convention, measures that came into force in September 2014.
During the period before their entering force, TRAFFIC studied the implications of the CITES listings for national agencies implementing the measures, developed new methodology for assessing the risk to shark species and also crafted guidelines on making Non-Detriment Findings for shark species (a pre-requisite before CITES export permits can be issued).
In response to the ongoing threats to sharks and rays, in 2014 WWF and TRAFFIC created Sharks: Restoring the Balance, an initiative aimed at improving the management of shark fisheries, reduce demand and move international trade in sharks and rays towards sustainability. Information leaflet (PDF, 1 MB)
In September 2014, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a new programme to support Pacific Island governments in managing and conserving their shark and ray populations. Factsheet (PDF, 140 KB)
Together, TRAFFIC and WWF aim to ensure both sharks and rays are harvested sustainably, yielding practical benefits for people without compromising marine ecosystems. Where populations have dropped too low to be sustainably fished, complete protection may be the only answer. Progress made during the first year of the initiative is discussed here.
In February 2016, TRAFFIC, WWF, together with Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with technical guidance and input from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, launched Global Priorities for Conserving Sharks and Rays: A 2015-2025 Strategy (PDF, 4.5 MB) during a Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) shark-focused meeting taking place at the time in Costa Rica. The ambitious ten-year strategy aims to halt the decline of sharks and rays in the years to come. Its formulation was made possible through the funding support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.