Spotted eagle ray. Creative Commons: john Norton, 2008.

Protecting Threatened Sharks and Rays

July 11, 2015

Protecting Threatened Sharks and Rays

LDF is supporting four projects aimed at decreasing shark mortality in priority regions, including a conservation program in the Southwest Indian Ocean. Policy measures and tools will be developed to provide concrete improvements in the conservation of these vulnerable species.

More than 1,100 species of sharks and rays that inhabit the marine and fresh waters of the world are facing an increasing risk of extinction as a result of overfishing, habitat loss, and other threats. Overfishing has become the most imminent threat to these species because of a number of factors: the declining numbers of fisheries to meet human demand, destructive and often industrial scale fishing practices that wipe out huge numbers of ocean species at a very fast pace, and strong demand for shark and ray products, such as fins, meat, oil, and gill plates. Another key problem facing sharks and rays is the utter lack of political will and governance structures on global, national and local levels to provide the proper protection measures that these species so urgently need. Sharks and rays are particularly susceptible to overfishing because they generally grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young. These factors provide further reasoning for us to take active measures to ensure their survival.

The world’s leading experts on sharks and rays (The Wildlife Conservation Society, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, World Wildlife Fund, and the IUCN Shark Specialist Group) are collaborating to design a ten-year global initiative for the conservation of sharks and rays. To kickoff this global initiative, LDF is supporting four strategic pilot projects that focus on priority regions, policy measures and tools, and concrete improvements in the management and conservation of these vulnerable species.

These four projects are aimed at achieving the following outcomes over the coming year:

  • Conserving Sharks and Rays in the Southwest Indian Ocean: Securing political commitment from Nairobi Convention Member States to implement a set of policies to protect sharks and rays at the regional and national levels.
  • Developing the Case for the protection of key threatened shark and ray species at CITES: Scientific analyses, including Endangered Red List assessments on currently unprotected species being considered for a new Convention on International Trade in Endangered 
Species (CITES) listing, which would provide the basis for protection from international trade of their fins, meat and other valued parts.
  • Ten Simple Things to Manage Shark and Ray Mortality in Indonesia and Beyond: Developing a set of science-based safeguards for sharks and rays that can be promptly put in place in the regions where high levels of shark mortality are occurring.
  • Advancing Shark and Ray Protection in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Expanding international fishing limits for heavily fished sharks and rays, protections for particularly vulnerable species, and stronger finning bans through the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

LDF is actively engaging with a group of foundations and organizations to develop an alliance committed to ending the slaughter of sharks and rays and re-establish their population numbers before it is too late. A formal launch of this effort is expected within the next year.

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