Shark sanctuary
A shark sanctuary is an area that forbids commercial fishing operations from catching any shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

. As of 2011, four nations have signed shark sanctuaries into law.


Every year, fishermen pull "up to 73 million" or "some 100 million" sharks from the world's oceans. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Food and Agriculture Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and...

 (FAO) estimates that more than half of shark species are overexploited or depleted. Globally, 21% of shark species whose extinction risk has been assessed fall into the "threatened" categories, and 18% are "near threatened", while 35% lack sufficient data to decide, leaving 26% in the unthreatened category.

The search for shark fins drives the illegal hunting trade. Some juridictions permit fishing for fins and food. Sharks are also caught as bycatch
The term “bycatch” is usually used for fish caught unintentionally in a fishery while intending to catch other fish. It may however also indicate untargeted catch in other forms of animal harvesting or collecting...

 when fishing for marlin
Marlin, family Istiophoridae, are fish with an elongated body, a spear-like snout or bill, and a long rigid dorsal fin, which extends forward to form a crest. Its common name is thought to derive from its resemblance to a sailor's marlinspike...

, tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

 and other varieties.

Sharks generally reach sexual maturity only after several years of life and produce very few offspring in comparison to other harvested fish. Harvesting sharks before they reproduce has severe impacts on future populations.

Pacific Islands

Palau , officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a...

 created the world’s first so-named "shark sanctuary" on September 25, 2009. Palau forbids all commercial shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

 fishing within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters. The sanctuary protects about 600000 square kilometres (231,661.3 sq mi) of ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

, an area similar to the country of France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. President
President of Palau
-List of Presidents of Palau:-Latest election:-See also:*Vice-President of Palau*High Commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands...

 Johnson Toribiong
Johnson Toribiong
Johnson Toribiong is a Palauan attorney and politician who is the current President of Palau, following his victory in the November 2008 election.-Background and earlier career:...

 made the announcement at a meeting of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. President Toribiong also requested a worldwide ban on shark fishing. Palau is home to 135 endangered or vulnerable shark and ray species.

The Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 created a sanctuary in March, 2010.

On February 25, 2011, Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

, a US island territory, voted to ban commerce in fins. Guam's Senate passed a bill banning the sale, possession and distribution of the fins.

In August, 2011, Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

, the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

, and Guam announced plans to join Palau in a region-wide sanctuary that covers 2000000 square miles (5,179,976.2 km²) of ocean.

Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

, another Pacific island state, and the US operate Earth's largest marine reserve.


Honduras prohibited the taking of sharks in its national waters as of February 2010.

South Africa

In 1991 South Africa became the first country in the world to declare great white sharks a legally protected species.


In February 2009, the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 proposed first-ever shark conservation rules for European waters, although these are not outright bans. EU countries account for one-third of global shark meat exports.

Shark steaks are increasingly served in restaurants. Shark parts are also used in lotions and leather sports shoes.

Other nations

Some developed nations limit shark catches and restrict shark finning
Shark finning
Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discarding of the rest of the fish. Shark finning takes place at sea so the fishers only have to transport the fins.Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored...


The U.S. bans shark finning on all U.S.-flagged vessels, forbids the taking 19 species of sharks including white
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

, whale
Whale shark
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of and a weight of more than , but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks...

, and basking sharks and shares lists of illegal vessels with established fishing companies, helping them report illegal activities. The U.S. also assesses the health of many of its shark populations and includes sharks in its various Fishery Management Plans. Hawaii has banned the sale and possession of shark fins. The states of California, Oregon and Washington are considering similar bans.

Shark fishery

After reaching about 0.9 million tonnes in 2003, catches of the “sharks, rays and chimaeras” group declined to 0.75 million tonnes in 2006, a drop of 15 percent., numbering some 100 million fish.
Country Capture
 Indonesia 112,000
 Spain 77,300
 India 72,100
 Pakistan 51,200
 Republic of China 45,900
 Mexico 35,300
 Japan 33,100
 United States 30,900
 Sri Lanka 28,000
 Argentina 25,700
 Malaysia 24,500
 Early Modern France 22,800
 Brazil 18,500
 New Zealand 17,700
 United Kingdom 17,400
 Thailand 16,200
 Peru 15,400
 South Korea 15,400
 Maldives 13,500
 Canada 13,500
 Nigeria 13,200
 Senegal 10,800
 Portugal 9,100
 Australia 8,100
Total 828,400

Drivers of the shark trade

Sharks are a common seafood in many places around the world, including China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 (shark-fin soup), Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 (fish and chips
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is a popular take-away food in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada...

 under the name flake
Flake (fish)
Flake is a term used in Australia to indicate the flesh of any of several species of small shark, particularly Gummy shark. The term probably arose in the late 1920s when the large-scale commercial shark fishery off the coast of Victoria was established. Until that time, shark was generally an...

), in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (under the name sora in Tamil language
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

 and Telugu language
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

), and Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ers eat Greenland shark
Greenland shark
The Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus, also known as the sleeper shark, gurry shark, ground shark, grey shark, or by the Inuit languages name Eqalussuaq, is a large shark native to the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean around Greenland and Iceland. These sharks live farther north than any...

s as hákarl
Hákarl or kæstur hákarl is a food from Iceland. It is a Greenland or basking shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months...


In finning, a fisherman removes the fin with a hot metal blade and releases the dying animal. Other fish typically consume the remains. Shark finning has become a major trade within black markets all over the world with shark fins going at about $300/lb in 2009.

European consumers consume dogfish
Squaliformes is an order of sharks that includes about 97 species in seven families.Members of the order have two dorsal fins, which usually possess spines, no anal fin or nictitating membrane, and five gill slits. In most other respects, however, they are quite variable in form and size...

es, smoothhounds, catshark
Catsharks are ground sharks of the family Scyliorhinidae, with over 150 known species. While they are generally known as catsharks, many species are commonly called dogfish....

s, makos
Isurus is a genus of mackerel sharks in the family Lamnidae, commonly known as the mako sharks. There are two living species, the common shortfin mako shark and the rare longfin mako shark , and several extinct species known from fossils. They range in length from 9 to 15 feet, and have an...

, porbeagle
The porbeagle is a species of mackerel shark in the family Lamnidae, distributed widely in the cold and temperate marine waters of the North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere. In the North Pacific, its ecological equivalent is the closely related salmon shark...

 and also skates and rays
Batoidea is a superorder of cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays and skates, containing more than 500 described species in thirteen families...

. However, the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 recommends that that children and women who are or may be pregnant should refrain from eating shark.
For details see mercury in fish
Mercury in fish
Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound of mercury. Fish products have been shown to contain varying amounts of heavy metals, particularly mercury and fat-soluble pollutants from water pollution...


Shark cartilage
Shark cartilage
Shark cartilage is a dietary supplement made from the dried and powdered cartilage of a shark; that is, from the tough material that composes a shark's skeleton. Shark cartilage is claimed to combat and/or prevent a variety of illnesses, most notably cancer. It is often marketed under the names...

 has been used to treat cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 and osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is a group of mechanical abnormalities involving degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and subchondral bone. Symptoms may include joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, locking, and sometimes an effusion...


Seafood Watch
Seafood Watch
Seafood Watch is one of the best known sustainable seafood advisory lists, and has influenced similar programs around the world. It is a program designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources...

 recommends that everyone avoid eating shark.

The majority of shark fisheries around the globe have little monitoring or management. With the rise in demand for shark products there is a greater pressure on fisheries. Sharks experience a long interval between birth and sexual maturity, such that many sharks never reach maturity. In some species, populations have declined by over 90% over the past 20–30 years with decline of 70% not unusual.

The practice of shark finning
Shark finning
Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discarding of the rest of the fish. Shark finning takes place at sea so the fishers only have to transport the fins.Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored...

, attracts much controversy and regulations are being enacted to prevent it from occurring. The acclaimed 2007 documentary, Sharkwater exposed how sharks are being hunted to extinction, in part due to the massive Asian demand for shark fin soup
Shark fin soup
Shark fin soup is a popular soup item of Chinese cuisine usually served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets, or as a luxury item in Chinese culture. The shark fins provide texture while the taste comes from the other soup ingredients.There is controversy over the practice of shark...

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