Our Oceanic Programme is a wide-ranging advocacy effort which targets the conservation of oceanic sharks and rays. Oceanic sharks are some of the most iconic and functionally important species in our ocean. They are exceptionally threatened by overfishing and urgent action is required to ensure their long-term sustainability.

The management of these species falls under a range of national governments, international bodies and multi-national treaties.

Our goal, working with a network of international partners, is to ensure that:

·       fisheries management applies science-based catch limits, bycatch mitigation measures and best practice finning regulations. Adopting appropriate precautionary principles,

·       regulations and treaty commitments are robustly enforced to ensure conservation of species,

·       fisheries and trade are continuously monitored, with reporting loopholes closed and additional regulations imposed where necessary.

How can you support this work?

The Big Shark Pledge is our campaign to generate support for the vital advocacy work of our Oceanic Programme and the work of the Shark League. Every voice of support makes our challenge easier.

Find out more and pledge your support here.

Overfishing is the Problem

A landmark 2021 report highlighted the specific threats faced by 31 species of oceanic sharks and rays. Sharp declines in populations over a 50-year period are attributed directly to an 18-fold increase in fishing pressure over the same timeframe. Now three-quarters of these species are classed as threatened.

Radical improvements in fisheries management are urgently needed to reverse the decline and put these species on a road to recovery.

Fisheries Management Works

Research on wide-ranging shark species in the West Atlantic has demonstrated the benefits of fisheries management. Where rigorously applied, shark populations can rebuild and improve their conservation status. But the authors noted the importance of international agreements “such that successful conservation in one country is not undone by less regulated fishing areas outside their borders.” 

So a multi-national approach is needed. Seeking to create consistency between countries and in international waters. This is the driving force behind our oceanic programme.

Regional Fisheries Management

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) are international organisations that manage, conserve and protect high seas, straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. RFMOs are tasked with collecting fisheries statistics, assessing resources, making management decisions and monitoring activities. Some RFMOs have a purely advisory role. But most have management powers to set catch and fishing effort limits, technical measures, and control obligations.

There are approximately 17 RFMOs covering various geographic areas, some of which overlap.

Five are the so-called tuna RFMOs, which manage fisheries for tuna and other large species, including sharks.

Together, the five tuna RFMOs have responsibility for managing fisheries in approximately 91 percent of the world's oceans. 

We are founder partners of the Shark League. This is an international coalition focused on Responsible Regional Conservation of Sharks & Rays through engagement with RFMO’s. Its goals are to secure:

·       Shark and ray catch limits that align with scientific advice,

·       Strict protections for endangered species, and

·       Strong, enforceable bans on shark finning.

We have observer status in the following RFMO’s. Enabling us to monitor, participate in meetings and influence decision-making

Through the Shark League partnership we also monitor and contribute to:

  • Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)

  • Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

  • Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

What have we achieved?

The Oceanic Programme builds on the success of two previous collaborative programmes.

The Shark Alliance, formed in 2006. campaigned for an EU Shark Action Plan and to close loopholes in the EU’s ban on shark ‘finning’ The alliance was led by: The European Elasmobranch Association, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Project Aware and Shark Trust.

In 2009, the EU adopted a Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, setting the stage for sweeping improvements in shark fishing management and protection policies. 

In 2013, after years of debate and a complex political process, the alliance achieved the second of its objectives when the European Parliament and Council of Fisheries Ministers agreed to a regulation requiring that all sharks caught in EU waters or by EU boats globally had to be landed with their fins naturally attached, with no exceptions. 

The No Limits? campaign was launched by the Shark Trust in the wake of the historic 2013 finning regulation. The campaign provided a focus on establishing science-based catch limits to end uncontrolled shark fishing. Starting with the Blue Shark, the world's most heavily-fished shark. After the establishment of the Shark League. the international advocacy work yielded the first international catch limit for a shark species in 2019. 

Attention then switched to the extremely vulnerable Mako Shark. In 2021 after a 3-year campaign, ICCAT parties agreed a full retention ban on Shorten Mako in the North Atlantic. This was followed by a catch limit for South Atlantic makos in 2022. 

Bridging the Gaps that Hinder Shark Conservation

A new Shark League gap analysis highlights where shark fishing and trading nations are falling short after decades of conservation commitments made through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, a global wildlife treaty) and the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT, a regional fishery management organization). 

Click here to download report

Case Study: A Decade of Progress for the Blue Shark

Case Study: A decade of progress for the Blue Shark

Banner Image: Jacob Brunetti