Sharks and Rays are in serious decline!

A recent Global Study Published in Nature confirms Sharks and Rays are in serious decline!

The number of sharks found in the open oceans has plunged by 71% over the last 50 years, mainly due to over-fishing, according to the recent scientific study recently published in Nature.

Oceanic sharks and rays are vital to the health of vast marine ecosystems, but because they are hidden beneath the ocean surface, it has been difficult to assess and monitor their status. The study represents the first global analysis of the state of shark species and is a wakeup call to the impact humans are having on the world’s oceans.

Giant Manta Ray hovering Over a coral reef in the Seychelles allowing cleaner wrasse to pick off parasites.

Three-quarters of the shark species studied are threatened with extinction. For every 10 sharks found in the open ocean in the 1970s, only three would be found today. Sharks and rays are mainly caught for their meat, fins and liver oil. They are also captured for recreational fishing and turn up by accident in the catch of fishing boats that are targeting other stocks. 

Of the 31 species studied, 24 are now threatened with extinction, and three shark species (the oceanic whitetip shark, and the scalloped and great hammerhead sharks) have declined so sharply they are now classified as critically endangered – the highest threat category, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Oceanic sharks and rays are at exceptionally high risk of extinction which jeopardizes the health of entire ocean ecosystems as well as food security for some of the world’s poorest countries.

Giant Hammerhead Shark hunting Sting Rays along shallow sand banks in the Bahamas.

The researchers compiled global data on sharks and rays found in the open oceans. 

Of the 1,200 or so species of sharks and rays in the world, only 31 are truly oceanic, travelling large distances across the world’s oceans. Not only are the charismatic ocean predators under threat, but some of the world’s most unusual sharks and rays are also on the brink of extinction. Reef Sharks are now rarely seen at almost one in five of the world’s coral reefs, a major study has found. The crash in shark numbers, could have dire consequences for corals struggling to survive in a changing climate. 

Schooling Grey Reef Sharks, hunting coral reef fish on an offshore reef in the Seychelles

Most sharks are at the top of the food chain, which makes them crucial to the health of the oceans.  Losing them would have a big impact on other fish populations. Fishing, both targeted and accidental, was to blame for the steep decline in many of these populations, together with habitat loss due to coastal development, degradation of mangrove forests, water pollution and trawling.

At a time when corals are struggling to survive in a changing climate, losing reef sharks could have dire long-term consequences for entire reef systems. There is widespread loss of reef sharks across much of the world’s tropical oceans. Species such as grey reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and Caribbean reef sharks were often missing from reefs where they would historically have been found.

Scientists carried out baited underwater video studies on 371 reefs across 58 countries from the Central Pacific to the Bahamas. Bait was attached to a pole at the front of the cameras to attract any nearby sharks. Almost no sharks were detected on any of the 69 reefs of six nations: the Dominican Republic, the French West Indies, Kenya, Vietnam, the Windward Dutch Antilles and Qatar.

International political will is needed to reverse the decline in shark species, Governments need to work together to implement measures that are needed to reduce the take of sharks and these decisions will only come if there is pressure from citizens and conservation organizations. 

There are a few shark conservation stories that give some cause for hope. A couple of species, including the great white, have started to recover through science-based fishing limits and fishing bans. Relatively simple safeguards can help to save sharks and rays. 

By regulating how sharks are fished, populations have a chance to recover. Restricting certain gear types and setting catch limits, to national-scale bans on catches and trade can reduce the pressure on sharks throughout the world’s oceans.

Bathed in sunlight, a large, female white shark investigates a shoal of anchovy at the surface in Mexico.

Sharks are at the top of the food chain, and crucial to the health of the oceans. Estimates suggest that 100 million sharks are killed by people each year which is not sustainable.

Dr Chris Clarke

A bowl of pain

A recent article highlighted a problem that we hoped was going away: continued shark finning in order to make shark fin soup (click here for the article ). Shark fin soup is a traditional dish in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, but it is found worldwide in Chinese restaurants. It is traditionally a luxury food that used to be served at special events. The interesting thing, however, is that shark fins only give texture to the dish, but the actual flavour comes from other ingredients. So, shark fin is not even necessary for the soup itself, and easy alternatives exist.

As anyone who has visited this website knows, sharks are under intense pressure in the wild. They are killed as by-catch, targeted for sport fishing, and of course killed for their fins. As we all know, the number of sharks killed is in the millions each year, an unsustainable number. If shark fin soup was just a niche luxury food, maybe it alone would not be such a problem. However, as China’s huge population has become more and more wealthy, demand for shark fin soup has boomed. Now this dish is a serious cause of trouble for shark numbers.

Every country has its own traditions and cuisine, and these are worth respecting as much as possible. So can we fairly criticise the Chinese for eating shark fin soup? Many people argue that we cannot. However, climate change is a global environmental issue, so is green house gas emission, and so is plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, to cite just a few examples. Plummeting shark numbers is also a global environmental issue, and therefore it must be part of a global conversation. This isn’t a matter of criticising national traditions, but of including them in global questions of environmental ethics.

What can we do?

Firstly, avoid eating shark fin soup!

Secondly, at a restaurant that serves shark fin soup, explain why you are not eating it or why you are unwilling to eat at that restaurant.

Lastly, spread the word and consider raising this issue with your politicians.

As always, individual efforts might seem too small to be meaningful, but a collection of individual efforts can bring real change. Let’s do this for the sharks.

(For photo credit click here)

Is it worth it?
(For photo credit click here)

Written by: Sarah Geron and John Gardener

Majestic Makos Sharks: Last Chance to See?

Mako sharks. Sleek and fast, they are the kings of the high seas. Or at least they were: as a recent article in Science highlights, they are the second most common shark caught in pelagic fisheries, with at least 130,000 individuals caught each year in the North Atlantic alone. Most shockingly, even if that number was reduced to 0, mako sharks would only have a 54% chance of recovering by 2040.

Scientists have recognised that this overfishing is leading to dramatic population declines, and have strongly recommended to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that annual catches need to be reduced to below 500 tons (it’s about 3,300 tons at the moment). However, despite recognising the sharks are overfished, ICCAT instead opted not to impose a quota but provided an unenforced regulation that sharks still alive when caught should be released. Scientists estimate that even if all of those alive sharks were released, the annual catch would still exceed 1,400 tons – well above the recommended maximum of 500! Even if the 500 maximum was achieved, makos would still only have a 35% chance of recovering by 2040…

Unfortunately, the sharks are simply too valuable to the nations that fish them, with a seeming preference for earning as much from them now as possible as opposed to nurturing a stable income from harvesting the sharks sustainably.

This emphasises the importance of education and awareness. Sharks are only fished to meet consumer demand, so perhaps if people appreciated the impacts they may reconsider buying shark products? One of the most important things we can do as individuals is share how important sharks are and how they are threatened by overfishing. If enough people understand and take action, demand can fall and sharks may just get the chance they need to recover and rule the oceans once more.


Written by: Sarah Geron

Our new project

Dear readers,

we are happy to announce a new project that we are very excited about. The whole team has been working on it for months and now it’s finally ready.

We are going to be handing out leaflets that raise awareness of the dangerous position sharks are in. These leaflets will be handed out to local stores and supermarkets in Italy that sell shark at their fish counters.

We also want to thank you very much for viewing our sight and hopefully spreading the word. We are very grateful, and hopeful that one day, hopefully sooner than later, things will change.

SOS Team

Great start!

Although sharks are struggling there is exciting news too.

In Hawaii a proposed new law would protect sharks and rays in state waters. Bravo Hawaii!

Let’s hope other jurisdictions take up this initiative.

(Click here for a link to the article)

Photo credit: Byron Dilkes
Photo credit: Byron Dilkes

Written by: Sarah Geron

Why sharks?

Sharks face serious threats all over the world, with some species pushed almost to the brink of extinction.

That is true of other animals too though, including land animals and other marine animals.

Yet there seems to be much less concern over hunting and killing sharks than there is over hunting and killing other threatened animals. Why is that?

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists the following animals as ‘vulnerable’ on its Red List of Threatened Species. Note that some of these assessments have not been updated recently, and the data may be seriously out of date, but nevertheless among the many species listed as vulnerable are:

  • Shortfin mako shark
  • Great white shark
  • Smooth hammerhead shark (the Great hammerhead and Scalloped hammerhead are in a worse situation and are listed as ‘endangered’)
  • African elephant
  • Lion
  • Giraffe
  • Polar bear

When a shark fisherman/woman puts a baited hook into the water, he or she may be targeting a particular species of shark, but it is still possible to hook a different species that lives in the same habitat. 

That is different to going hunting on land, where, when you look down the barrel of your rifle, you can see exactly what animal you’re aiming at.

So there is a clear degree of randomness to fishing that doesn’t exist when hunting on land, and when sharks are hooked and killed, regardless of the species and how threatened it might be, little is said.

In fact, there are still shark fishing contests held in Canada and the United States, where a variety of species, some vulnerable or perhaps even more threatened, might be hooked and landed. Yet such competitions are often seen as harmless fun. 

As a contrast, it is interesting to consider what the land-based equivalent would be.

It would be something like going out into the African outback where vulnerable giraffes, lions, and elephants might all be found alongside less or more threatened species, and shooting randomly into the bush.

Like in shark competitions where the winner is the one who lands the biggest shark, the winner there would be the one who had killed the biggest local animal with their random shooting, regardless whether it was a vulnerable elephant, lion, giraffe, or anything else.

Obviously a competition of random, indiscriminate killing of that kind on land would cause instant international outrage and condemnation, and it would do so among a wide range of people, including hunters. Yet outside of shark experts or groups with animal rights and conservation awareness, equally vulnerable sharks being killed randomly and for nothing more than sport and pleasure hardly generates concern at all.

Here is another example of attitudes differing, depending upon the animals involved.

There was a recent real-life example of a polar bear, also a species listed as vulnerable, being shot and killed by cruise ship guards when the cruise ship had entered arctic waters. 

Although the guards said it was in self-defence because the bear had attacked them, there was wide-ranging international criticism, both for the killing and for entering into habitats for pleasure where threatened animals lived (to say nothing of killing them while there!)

The incident caused internationally known comedian Ricky Gervais to tweet scornfully: “’Let’s get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close’. Morons.”

(Click here for photo source)

Yet when a shark is hooked and killed for nothing but sport, even mako shark also classed as “vulnerable”, it is reported as an exciting and admiring piece of news. This is from the Guardian:

New Jersey’s biggest shark catch: fishing crew reels in 12ft, 926lb mako

…The owner of the boat, Dave Bender, told Gerrity had “waited 35 years for today’s moment…Kevin’s passion and persistence has paid off today for a fish of a lifetime.”

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife said the previous record weight for a shark caught off the state coastline was an 880lb tiger shark caught off Cape May in 1988. 

According to the International Game Fish Association, the biggest shortfin mako ever caught was landed off the coast of Massachusetts in 2001, and weighed 1,221lbs.

This is from

Largest Shark Caught In Seven Years For Louisbourg Shark Derby

[A boy] poses for a photo with the largest shark caught at the Louisbourg “Mako My Day” Shark Derby since it started 7 years ago. The shark, 9’3″ and about 180 lbs was caught by Brad Bussey.

The contrast is immediately clear: we still seem to react with much less concern, in fact with interest and admiration, to the killing of sharks, whereas the situation is entirely different with other animals–even though species from both groups may be facing equivalent levels of threat in their natural habitats.

Again, why is that?

The answers may be complex. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating and vitally important question to consider for anyone interested in shark conservation and raising awareness about sharks and the many threats they face.

Post written by: John Gardener


The real monsters

While I was surfing on YouTube I found this interesting looking video named: ‘Mysterious Artic Shark’ by a user called ‘River Monsters’. Click here for a link to the video.

To my surprise, I saw two men catch this extremely rare shark, also known as the Giant Greenland Shark, to then cut it open and feed it to a pack of dogs.

Dogs have their own food. They do not need to eat a rare shark to survive.

That poor creature was ripped into pieces just to then be eaten by a pack of dogs. He wasn’t even threatening the two men.

That shark was not a river monster, those two men were the real monsters.

Although this is a tradition up in the north, to feed sharks to animals is still awfully wrong because of the threats sharks face worldwide.

I was happy to see though that the people commenting noticed this atrociousness too.

Please spread awareness because if we continue doing this, no shark will be left in the ocean.

Written by: Sarah Geron

Shark in place of plaice?

An article in today’s Guardian newspaper revealed that diners in fish and chip shops in the UK may be eating endangered shark species without realising it.

The article says:

Fish and chip shops and fishmongers are selling endangered sharks to an unwitting public, according to researchers who used DNA barcoding to identify species on sale.

Most chip shop fish sold under generic names such as huss, rock, flake and rock salmon turned out to be spiny dogfish, a shark species classified as endangered in Europe by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list.

Researchers at the University of Exeter also found fins of shark species unknowingly sold by a British wholesaler included scalloped hammerheads, which are endangered globally, as well as shortfin mako and smalleye hammerhead sharks.

This highlights several important things.

One, all shark species are facing challenges of all kinds all over the world, including some challenges, like being served in fish and chip shops without anyone realising, that we wouldn’t normally imagine.

Two, because of that, we as consumers have to make sure we ask questions and get information about the food we eat and things we consume, to make sure that our choices are in line with our values.

You can read the entire article here.

Post written by: John Gardener

Deep Blue

It has been the headline for days: ‘The largest shark in the world has had a close encounter with a diver”.

Deep Blue is the largest great white ever to have been seen. She is a 20ft female of more than 50 years of age. She is also now pregnant. She was found near the waters of Guadalupe Island, off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

The diver and photographer Kimberly Jefferies was hoping to take a few shots of the majestic tiger sharks found in those waters, who had come to feed on the carcass of a dead whale. But to her surprise, she found the largest great white shark ever to have been seen.

“We noticed tiger sharks coming up to the back of the engines. It was perfect because it was ultimately what we came out to see.”

“Maybe 30 seconds later we see this massive shark, just kind of gracefully and slowly rising out of the depth. And she comes up to feed on the carcass. I thought my heart was going to explode.”

Jefferies stated that she never felt any sense of threat from the massive shark. In fact the shark was gentle and calm towards the people around her.

This beauty of the sea was found earlier that week in the waters of Hawaii.

The shark now even has even its own twitter account.

We hope to hear more about this majestic creature of the sea and hopefully one day actually have an encounter with it.

(Click here for a link to the article. Photo below from the article)

A shark said to be 'Deep Blue', one of the largest recorded individuals, swims offshore Hawaii, U.S., January 15, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on January 17, 2019. (Credit: Reuters)

Post written by: Sarah Geron

The first doctor from the sea

In late 2015 a man was discovered to have cancer from a shark, but how?

While Eugene Finney was on a holiday with his family in California he decided to go for a swim in the ocean. While he was swimming he felt something hit his back.

“It hit harder than I’ve ever been hit in my life” said Eugene. He then, with agony and pain, headed towards the showers and realised that blood was dripping from his back.

Meanwhile his girlfriend, Emeline McKeown, noticed that lifeguards were calling the people to come out of the sea due to shark infested waters.

Mr. Finney, when back home, was filled with scars, bruises and aches so he went to the hospital.

When we has being treated by the doctors, they realised that he was on his early stages of cancer. If it wasn’t for that shark cutting his back open, the doctor would have never realised that he had cancer. Even if they would have eventually, it’d have been too late.

They were able to remove the growth because of that cut. Mr. Finney didn’t even have to go through chemotherapy.

“That’s pretty fascinating when you think about it.” he said.

Now we don’t know if that shark intentionally hit him because he had cancer or if it was just an accident, but what matters is that the creature saved a man’s life.

Written by Sarah Geron and Ljubomir Pešić 

(All information provided for this article was provided by INDEPENDENT. Click here for a link to the article)