Sharks, skates, rays and chimaera, are among the world's most threatened animals.

We need sharks to keep our oceans healthy and teeming with life. But overfishing is pushing many species to the brink. 


Oceanic shark and ray species that venture into the high seas face an extreme threat from overfishing. Of the species in this group, over three-quarters are classed as threatened and populations have suffered declines of 71% in 50 years.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Change is possible.

Sign the Big Shark Pledge today. Support our demand for effective management of high seas shark fisheries.

Sign the Big Shark Pledge


This occurs when animals are removed at a faster rate than they can be replenished by reproduction. It’s the inevitable result of excessive fishing and inadequate fisheries management.

Overfishing is the biggest threat to sharks:

100% of threatened sharks are impacted by overfishing.

Overfishing is the only threat for 67% of shark and ray species.

Much of the excessive shark fishing is down to large-scale industrial fisheries. But the damage is compounded by small-scale fishers. And some species are uniquely impacted by smaller boats. 


While intensive fishing is having an impact on all marine species, sharks are particularly affected because of their biology. Compared to commercial fish, they: 

  • ARE SLOWER GROWING & LATER TO MATURE - as an extreme case the Greenland Shark can live ~400 years and doesn’t reach sexual maturity until ~150 years! Many are killed before they’ve produced offspring.

  • HAVE LONGER PREGNANCIES - averaging between 9-12 months. The Greeneye Dogfish has the longest recorded pregnancy at 31 months!

  • PRODUCE FEWER YOUNG - varying from 2 pups for the Bigeye Thresher and up to 135 for the Blue Shark. Compare this to the reproduction potential of bony fish who release millions of eggs.

  • MAY NOT REPRODUCE EVERY YEAR - some species have a resting phase of 1-2 years. 


A global expansion of shark fishing has been underway for several decades. Inadequate fisheries management has failed to impose limits to protect populations from overfishing.

Where managed with science-based catch limits, shark and ray populations have been shown to rebuild over time. Sustainable fisheries management, that recognises the needs of fishing communities and the importance of healthy wild populations, offers a practical and equitable solution to the extinction crisis.

But, regrettably, sustainably managed shark fisheries are still in the minority.

Working at national and international level we are fully focused on ending overfishing through implementation of science-based fisheries management.

Find out more..


Sign the Big Shark Pledge today. Support our demand for effective management of high seas shark fisheries.

Sign the Big Shark Pledge! 



Many retailers will state if meat or shark by-products have been sustainably sourced. But if you're not sure you can always ask. If you have any doubts we recommend you don't buy. Here are a few things you can also look out for:

  • ACCURATE LABELLING - the species name should be clear and accurate on the packaging. Try not to buy products labelled only as ‘ray/skate wings’ or ‘shark steaks’.

  • TRACEABILITY - sustainable fish can be traced from the boat to the counter. Look for packaging which identifies the region where the fish was caught. Some seafood products list ‘FAO Area 27’ as the region but this is the code for the entire Northeast Atlantic! 

We've also got lots of ways you can get involved with our work. From citizen science projects, to becoming a member, helping us raise awareness and more.

Get Involved 


The vast majority of sharks fished are classed as unintentional catch (or bycatch). Despite this, once caught, almost all are sold on for use as food or animal feed. It’s likely that many sharks are targeted unofficially.


Shark meat and products can be found in restaurants, health food stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, fashion stores, souvenir and pet shops. Often consumers are unaware certain products contain shark, as it's not clearly labelled. Consumer awareness is key.

  • SHARK MEAT & FINS - it's encouraging to see declines in demand for shark fins. Yet it's important to note that the global trade in shark meat is on the rise. This is likely to far exceed any demand for fins, which are mainly sent to East and Southeast Asia.

  • MANTA & DEVIL RAY GILL PLATES - these are highly sought after in the Chinese medicinal trade. It's claimed that gill-rakers can filter out disease and toxins from the body. The gill -rakers, which are used by rays to filter zooplankton from the water, are often consumed in a soup called Peng Yu Sai. They’re worth an estimated US$11 million annually. The gill plate trade, centered in Guangzhou, China, has stimulated intensive fishing for these rays in many countries.

  • SHARK LIVER OIL (labelled squalene/squalane) - this can be found in a surprising number of products. From moisturisers, deodorants and sun tan lotion, to lip balm, lipsticks and other cosmetics. It's also used in vaccines, pills and supplements. The highest return of squalene comes from the livers of deep-sea sharks. And so, they're intensively fished. Due to the nature of their biology they're unable to withstand this level of fishing pressure. Many are now listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species.

  • SHARK CARTILAGE - is sold as a health supplement in many health food shops and pharmacies. It's believed to help a variety of conditions, including arthritis, shingles, rheumatism, haemorrhoids, psoriasis and even cancer. Yet there's no clinical evidence to support these claims.

  • SHARK LEATHER (shagreen) - shark skin has been used for decades to make leather because it's so durable. It's particularly popular in the United States, northern Europe and Japan. It's used to create luxury items such as, wallets, shoes (including football boots created by the brand Kelme), handbags, watch straps, belts, gloves, jackets and furniture. As well as sandpaper and on sword handles, as its rough texture helps with grip.

  • SHARK TEETH & JAWS - these can often be seen for sale in seaside tourist shops. Despite the fact that in many countries it's illegal to catch sharks. White Sharks are protected under CITES, yet their teeth and jaws can fetch huge sums on the black market. A single tooth can sell for over $100 and a whole set of jaws can fetch up to $10,000 in the USA. Sadly, illegal smuggling of White Shark teeth is becoming increasingly common in countries such as South Africa.



Shark finning is “the process of cutting off the fins of a shark and discarding the body, often still alive, at sea”. This wasteful and cruel practice contradicts all principles of sustainability. It also makes effective fisheries management impossible. It's illegal in many parts of the world, including Europe. But weak legislation and ineffective enforcement often undermines shark finning regulations.

We have campaigned for two decades to end finning through the application of the strictest finning regulations which require sharks to be landed with fins naturally attached. 

Are there other problems besides overfishing? 

Overfishing is the universal threat affecting all 391 threatened species and is the sole threat for 67.3% of species. Overfishing interacts with three other threats for the remaining third: loss and degradation of habitat (31.2% of threatened species), climate change (10.2%), and pollution (6.9%)*


*Dulvy (2021), Overfishing Drives over one-third of all sharks and rays toward a global extinction crisis, Current Biology, Volume 31, Issue 22

Banner Image: Charles Hood