Conservation Efforts

Many shark species, both locally and globally, are struggling. Many of the causes as to why are very well known, and so there are many ways that you can help; from being cognizant of your power as an informed consumer to educating friends and family to supporting any number of great shark conservation organizations — the time to act is now. 

Madison Stewart aka Shark Girl and Australian Geographic Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year 2017

Status of Shark Conservation


Policy: Several bills have been introduced in Florida to protect sharks and rays by prohibiting commerce connected to shark fins and ray parts. Here is where they stand currently:

      • 2019 Legislative session: HB 99 died in Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee (5/3/19)
      • 2019 Legislative session: SB 352 died in Environment and Natural Resources (5/3/2019)
      • 2020 Legislative session: SB 680 passed both houses in the 2020 Legislative session and will be sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill bans the import/export and sale of shark fins in Florida but exempts current Florida Fisheries permit holders.

Local shark conservation groups:


Policy: CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international treaty to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade. This is a powerful treaty that can help protect sharks globally, but it still needs strengthening in order to give sharks the full legal protection that they need. The last update to the CITES appendices for sharks was in 2016 and 2019.

2016: Four proposals regarding shark species were submitted for consideration. Proposal CoP17 Prop. 42 on Carcharhinus falciformis (Silky Shark), proposal CoP17 Prop. 43 on Alopias spp. (Thresher Sharks) and proposal CoP17 Prop. 44 Mobula spp. (Devil Rays) were adopted while proposal CoP Prop. 45 for Potamotrygon motoro (Ocellate River Stingray) was rejected.

2019: Shortfin Mako sharks, Giant Guitarfishes, and Wedgefishes were listed on CITES Appendix II in August of 2019. 46 species of sharks are now listed on the Appendices.



Major threats to sharks, what’s being done, and how you can help:

Shark Finning

About 80,000,000 sharks are killed annually for their fins. These fins continue to have high monetary and cultural value, consumed in a popular dish called shark fin soup, that when eaten portrays a symbol of high status in Chinese culture. In many cases, fisherman only bring the more marketable (and easier to transport) fins back to shore; the rest of the shark is thrown overboard, often still alive, to die slowly from blood loss and/or suffocation.

Conservation efforts underway:

    • Exposure to the problem and global education are important.
    • The Chinese government is taking steps to decrease the cultural value of fins. For example, they began prohibiting the serving of shark fin soup at official banquets. 
    • Young shark conservationists are bringing new attention to the severity of the problem.
      • Read a Smithsonian article about their efforts here.

How you can help:


Bycatch is the incidental catch of sharks when fishing for other fish species. Modern fishing gear (especially nets and trawls) are alarmingly efficient at catching everything in their path. 

Conservation efforts underway:

    • Fishing gear is typically nonselective, allowing any species to be caught. Switching to more selective fishing gear can minimize bycatch such as altering the shape/size of hooks and depth/length of gillnets and longlines.
      • Read an Oceana article about gear here.
    • Environmental cues such as temperature can be used to learn where sharks are more likely to be and avoid these areas when fishing. 
      • Read an Ocean article about cues here.

How you can help:

    • Choose sustainable seafood options whenever you purchase seafood. If you cannot confirm that the fish on the menu was legally and sustainably harvested, do not order it.
      • Visit Seafood Watch's website to learn more here.
    • Support groups that work with fisheries to develop new technologies and gear that reduces bycatch, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
      • Read about their efforts here.

Fear & Misunderstanding

Historical and current portrayals of sharks have instilled fear and misunderstanding of these animals amongst the public. This has become a huge obstacle to conservation efforts, and that needs to change. 

How you can help:

    • Get educated! We can’t stress this enough. Knowledge is power when it comes to conservation. Here is a list of more great resources that you should explore:
      • The Guardian’s “Why We Need Sharks: The True Nature of the Ocean's 'Monstrous Villains.'” Read here.
      • The Smithsonian's “How Not to Fear Sharks”, by activist Madison Stewart, the “Shark Girl.” View here
      • National Geographic’s “Why Are We Afraid of Sharks? There’s a Scientific Explanation” Read here.
      • Look at the actual data on encounters with sharks here in Southwest Florida. View here.