Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

S. Fowler

Nature Conservation Bureau
36 Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road, Newbury, Berkshire RG 14 SSJ, United Kingdom


In recent years, some of the most influential and long-established environmental nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have become increasingly concerned with shark conservation and management and several smaller NGOs have become established with the sole aim of promoting the study and/or conservation and management of elasmobranch fishes. The following sections describe the larger environmental NGOs that influence international elasmobranch conservation and management, and the specialist organisations with a particular interest in shark conservation and management. Some of the latter have significant expertise and are an important resource for government departments and other policy, or management organisations, now responsible for elasmobranch conservation and management. For this reason they may receive financial support from governments and larger, better-funded NGOs. The larger NGOs are important because they have sufficient public backing to influence the development of national or international policy and legislation at government level, or to enable them to fund elasmobranch conservation and research intiatives. Some are networking organisations that can represent and co-ordinate the views and activities of other bodies, either on a national, or international, basis. A few combine some, or all, of these roles.

Many environmental NGOs use their influence to promote the use of environmental and wildlife conservation legal instruments to achieve elasmobranch conservation and management even for commercially-important species that are considered to fall under the competence of fisheries legislation. A section on international law therefore introduces some of the major ‘soft law’ and international environmental treaties and conventions that may be used in this way. Accession to soft law instruments illustrates the increasing view of States that certain principles should govern equally the conservation of all biological resources, whether wildlife, domestic life forms, or harvested species (including fish). The section on binding international instruments introduces some of the major international non-fisheries legislation that will increasingly be promoted by environmental NGOs wishing to achieve elasmobranch conservation if fisheries legislation is not available, not being applied, or not considered to be having the desired result.

Readers will find that this paper has a European and North American bias, a consequence of the author's personal experiences.


The first international species management and conservation initiatives were established in the second half of the 19th Century in Europe. They included agreements on the conservation of birds (first because of their value to man as controllers of agricultural pests, but later for their protection in their own right as ‘wildlife’) and on migratory fish - salmon in the River Rhine. Various interest groups, including farmers, fishermen, and naturalists, were instrumental in persuading governments to consider these controls, and indeed these interest groups can be viewed as the fore-runners of today's non-governmental organisations, many of which are now concerned with elasmobranch conservation.

The first formal environmental NGOs were established towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Most were closely linked with government through the involvement of influential individuals with access to policy and decision-makers and their establishment and early growth often coincided with the enactment of the first modern nature conservation legislation in their countries. These and subsequent national and international environmental statutes covering a wide range of species and other environmental issues were usually drawn up and enacted by governments at least partly on the instigation of NGOs and the body of public opinion that they represented. The government departments concerned with habitat and species protection and these early NGOs supported and complemented each other's efforts and continue to do so.

By the middle of the present century, several major international conservation initiatives were well established, including the IUCN - the World Conservation Union. However, the influence of the NGO environmental movement has only risen to its present prominence and received widespread public support over the past 20–30 years as the professionalism of the advocacy and public education roles of the NGOs has grown. Numerous new conservation organisations (albeit some small and short-lived) have been established during this most recent period, covering a huge range of interests, policies and activities. Many of them have a more confronational approach than the founder members of the conservation movement and a few focus upon animal rights rather than science-based species and habitat conservation issues. Others have been modelled along the lines of the original naturalists' and scientists' organisations, being concerned primarily with research or surveys, but almost all have been drawn into the environmental and conservation debate as a result of environmental degradation and species depletion. Public membership of the largest conservation organisations now exceeds one million.

These environmental organisations, many with overlapping interests, have been partly coordinated by international bodies, chief among them the IUCN. They have also initiated a variety of collaborative efforts or joint programmes between themselves. Governments often welcome these collaborative NGO initiatives, because they simplify consultations between government departments or quangos (the quasi-autonomous NGOs appointed by governments to advise on issues such as nature conservation or fisheries management) and the NGO community.

It was during the recent expansion of the NGO movement that many of the older voluntary organisations began to expand their activities to the marine environment (initially to tackle protected area issues, whaling and pollution) and have most recently become involved in fisheries and shark conservation. New organisations concerned solely with marine conservation have been started (e.g. the Marine Conservation Societies in the UK and Australia, and the Center for Marine Conservation in the US), many concentrating on small groups of species, such as elasmobranchs. The delay in marine conservation initiatives was partly because of the difficulty of protecting marine sites and habitats which, unlike terrestrial reserves, cannot be purchased. While the more appealing seabirds, seals and cetaceans benefited from conservation management early on, invertebrate and fish conservation initiatives have lagged behind.

It is now possible to see parallels between the development of the first NGOs and their influence on terrestrial species and habitat management and the current involvement of NGOs in marin environmental and species conservation issues, including those of elasmobranchs. Elasmobranchs are now beginning to capture political and public attention and one result of the educational and media activity of environmental NGOs is that the ‘environmentally-aware’ public and media perceptions of the nature of sharks and rays are increasingly changing from one of ‘fish’ and ‘dangerous pests’ to that of ‘wildlife’. While it seems unlikely that public support for shark and ray conservation initiatives will reach the levels of support enjoyed by, e.g. birds, cetaceans or the large cats, it is likely to continue to grow significantly in the future.


3.1 International organisations

3.1.1 IUCN - The World Conservation Union Range of activities

The IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or World Conservation Union) is the international umbrella body for the world's conservation organizations. Its members comprise 74 sovereign states, 100 government agencies, 670 NGOs, and 33 affiliates. The mission of IUCN is to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The IUCN conducts a wide range of marine activities relevant to the conservation and management of sharks that are conducted through regional and country offices of the IUCN, primarily in West and East Africa, Latin America and Asia, and by the volunteer Commission networks of the IUCN. Until 1998, these activities were done under the framework of the IUCN Marine and Coastal Programme, a global coordination unit based at IUCN Headquarters in Gland, Switzerland. The IUCN's work is conducted in various areas, including policy and law; resource assessment and management, and capacity-building - and at different scales - global, regional, national and local. These activities include developing partnerships with IUCN government and non-government members and other institutions and in many instances involve local communities and other interested stakeholders.

The IUCN's regional and country offices have been particularly active in East and West Africa where they have supported the development and implementation of integrated coastal zone management, incorporating to varying degrees marine protected areas, biodiversity and fisheries conservation, and habitat restoration, all of which are relevant to the conservation of sharks. In West Africa, the IUCN has facilitated the establishment of a regional coastal zone planning network, which is addressing fisheries. In Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, and Senegal, efforts are underway to document the growing shark fisheries in the region and increase awareness of the risks involved for conservation and management of these species.

In addition to the regional and country offices, the following components of the IUCN are of particular relevance to the management of sharks: IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC)

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest and most active of IUCN's six volunteer Commissions. It was formed in 1949 to provide leadership for species conservation efforts. The SSC encompasses nearly 7000 scientists, field researchers, government officials and conservation leaders from 188 countries. SSC members provide technical and scientific counsel for conservation projects, and advise governments, international conventions and conservation organisations.

The SSC's goal is to conserve biological diversity through programmes to study, save, restore and wisely manage species and their habitats. To reach this goal the SSC:

The SSC works primarily through its over 100 Specialist Groups, most of which focus on particular taxonomic groups (e.g. cetaceans, coral reef fishes, molluscs, orchids). Several disciplinary specialist groups address technical issues such as veterinary medicine, re-introductions, conservation breeding, invasive species, and the sustainable use of wildlife. One of the major contributions of SSC to the work of IUCN and the global conservation community is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world's most authoritative global list of species at risk of extinction. It is produced on the basis of contributions from the SSC Specialist Group network and a range of collaborating institutions. IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group

The Shark Specialist Group (SSG) was established in 1991. SSG members are volunteers appointed by invitation and must be actively involved in elasmobranch research, fisheries management, marine conservation and/or policy formulation. The Group's members include government fisheries managers, professional conservationists, chondrichthyan researchers and taxonomists. The SSG's mission is to promote the long-term conservation of the world's chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras), effective management of their fisheries and habitats, and where necessary, the recovery of their populations. Its objectives are:

Such technical information includes the preparation of a newsletter (Shark News, sponsored by a range of organisations) and elasmobranch status reports and species assessments for the regularly updated IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Shark Group also advises the IUCN on elasmobranch conservation issues. It provides SSG representatives to act as part of the IUCN delegation attending meetings such as FAO Technical Consultation and Intergovernmental Meetings and CITES Conferences or Committee meetings. It provides IUCN and TRAFFIC with scientific information on the status and biology of species being considered for listing in the CITES Appendices and may draw up information papers for CITES Animals Committees or other technical meetings. Shark Specialist Group publications in preparation include Camhi et al. (1998), an updated version of the information paper prepared for the CITES Animals Committee in 1996; Fowler (in prep.), the proceedings of an international workshop on elasmobranch conservation and management; Fowler et al. (in press), the Chondrichthyan Fish Status Report; and Fowler et al. (in prep.), the Chondrichthyan Fish Action Plan. A large number of unpublished reports (e.g. IUCN/SSG 1993, 1994 and 1995) have contributed towards the preparation of these documents. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has been published regularly for 30 years. Its purpose is ‘to highlight those species which are under higher risk from the biological and environmental factors which cause extinction and to focus on conservation measures designed to protect them’. It provides the most comprehensive inventory of threatened species and subspecies on a global scale. The Red List, originally only available as a printed volume updated roughly every three years, lists the category of extinction risk for a limited number of species. The most recent Red List (1996) includes over 5200 taxa, including all bird and mammal species in the world (or 30% of all vertebrates), and is available on the World Wide Web ( html). The next major update will be in the year 2000 and should incorporate most of the higher vertebrates, elasmobranchs and freshwater fishes.

The Red List was traditionally written for a scientific audience. However, with the growing appreciation of the importance of biodiversity and its imperilled status, the List is now increasingly important as a reference source for the general public and decision-makers. It does not, however, have any specific legal status, although governments and other organisations often use it as a guide in setting conservation priorities.

The IUCN Species Survival Commission recognises the importance of providing accurate information and is committed to providing the world with the most objective, scientifically-based information on the current status of globally threatened biodiversity. Thus the goals of the Red List are to:

The Red List is produced through analysis of information on species populations, biology and threat by the voluntary network of over 6000 Species Survival Commission Specialist Group members and the SSC's partner organisations: BirdLife International, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the Nature Conservancy. Red List assessments reached by this process are not codified, but represent the assessment of the most authoritative international expert(s) for each taxonomic group. There are eight well-defined categories of conservation status that enable the classification of almost every species or subspecies: Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Lower Risk (further subdivided into conservation dependent, near threatened, and least concern), Data Deficient and Not Assessed.

Table 1 presents the elasmobranchs listed in the most recent IUCN Shark Specialist Group publication (Camhi et al. 1998). Almost 100 other elasmobranch Red List assessments are currently undergoing review by the Specialist Group and will be published in the forthcoming Chondrichthyan Status Report (Fowler et al. in press).


The TRAFFIC network is the joint wildlife trade monitoring programme of the IUCN and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). TRAFFIC's purpose is to help ensure that wildlife trade is at sustainable levels and in accordance with domestic and international laws and agreements. This is done by the investigation, monitoring and reporting of such trade, particularly that which is detrimental to the survival of flora and fauna and that which is illegal. TRAFFIC works in close cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and has an international office in Cambridge, UK, shared with the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and a network of offices around the world; three in East Asia, four in East and Southern Africa, six in Europe, two in North America, and offices in India, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.

Table 1

Elasmobranch Red List Assessments
Common nameScientific nameRegionRed List Assessment
Whale sharkRhincodon typusWorldData Deficient
Blacktip sharkCarcharhinus limbatusWorldLower risk, near threatened
Dusky sharkCarcharhinus obscurusWorldLower risk, near threatened
  NW AtlanticVU A1d, A2d
Ganges sharkGlyphis gangeticusWorldCR A1c-e, A2c-e, C2b
Blue sharkPrionace glaucaWorldLower risk, near threatened
Sand tiger sharkEugomphodus taurusWorldVU A1a,b, A2d
  SW AtlanticEN A1a,b, A2d
  EasternEN A1a,b, A2d
Sandbar sharkCarcharhinus plumbeusWorldLower risk, near threatened
  NW AtlanticLower risk, conservation dependent
Great whiteCarcharodon carchariasWorldVU A1b,c,d, A2c,d
PorbeagleLamna nasusWorldLower risk, near threatened
  NW AtlanticLower risk, conservation
  NW AtlanticVU A1b,d, A2d
Kitefin sharkDalatias lichaWorldLower risk, near threatened
Freshwater sawfishPristis microdonWorldEN A1a,b,c, A2c,d
  SE AsiaCR A1a,b,c, A2c,d
Smalltooth sawfishPristis pectinataWorldEN A1a,b,c, A2c,d
  NE AtlanticCR A1a,b,c, A2c,d
  SW AtlanticCR A1a,b,c, A2c,d
Largetooth sawfishPristis perottetiWorldCR A1a,b,c, A2c,d
Common sawfishPristis pristisWorldEN A1a,b,c, A2c,d
Brazilian guitarfishRhinobatos horkeliiWorldCR A1b,d, A2b,d
Deepsea skateBathyraja abyssicolaWorldData Deficient
Common skateRaja batisWorldEN A1 b-d, A2 b-d
Giant freshwater stingrayHimantura chaophrayaWorldVU A1b-e, A2c,e
  ThailandCR A1b-e, A2c,e

The categories of threat are:
VU: Vulnerable,
EN: Endangered,
CR: Critically Endangered,
LR: Lower Risk,
nt: near threatened,
cd: conservation dependent,
lc: least concern.

The TRAFFIC network carried out a global study of international trade in sharks and shark parts from early 1994 to the end of 1996 published as an overview report (Rose, 1996) and as a number of regional reports (Chen et al. 1997, 1998; Chen 1996, Fleming and Papageorgiou 1997, Hanfee 1997, Laurenti and Rocco 1998, Marshall and Barnett 1997, Phipps 1996, Rose 1998, Sant and Hayes 1996). The TRAFFIC data were also used to prepare a summary report for the CITES Animals Committee (TRAFFIC Oceania and TRAFFIC USA) to assist the Committee with the preparation of its report to the 10th Conference (see CITES below). TRAFFIC works closely with the IUCN SSC to analyse proposals to amend the CITES Appendices published prior to each meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. In addition, TRAFFIC evaluates whether individual proposals meet the CITES amendment criteria and produces information papers for CITES Committees and other relevant meetings.

Many offices continue to research shark fisheries and trade. TRAFFIC offices are also following up on the recommendations made in previous studies, providing advice and information to governments, industry and others. TRAFFIC participated in the FAO Shark Experts Consultation and continues to advise the CITES Animals Committee with regard to sharks. TRAFFIC participates on national delegations to a number of international fisheries forums, e.g. the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), MHLC Process, and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), at which sharks are relevant as ecologically related species covered by existing and developing management frameworks. TRAFFIC also participates as a member in Australia on Management Advisory Committees which bring together all stake holders to advise on management decisions, notably the Southern Shark Fishery. TRAFFIC in Australia works closely with the commercial shark industry.

3.1.3 World Wide Fund for Nature, or World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Range of activities

The WWF International is a private, international, non-profit conservation foundation founded in 1961. It is the largest private, non-profit organisation in the world devoted to the care and protection of the natural world, and has more than five million individual subscribers, 24 national offices and affiliated organisations with activities in more than 100 countries. The largest of these is WWF-US, which has a staff of nearly 400. WWF-UK employs nearly 200, including 40 scientists across 32 disciplines. Each of the national affiliate organisations puts a specified proportion of their funds into international project work.

WWF's mission is to save the diversity and abundance of life on earth. The organisation aims at conserving nature and ecological processes by preserving genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity; ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable; and promoting actions to reduce pollution and the wasteful exploitation and consumption of natural resources and energy. WWF's ultimate goal is to reverse the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to help build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

An increasing number of the WWF international ‘family’ of organisations are becoming involved in shark biodiversity and conservation issues and the WWF network now funds a range of elasmobranch management and conservation work worldwide. Projects related to shark conservation and management include:

WWF supported the CITES shark resolution in 1994, and some of its national affiliates have asked their governments to support certain CITES listings proposals in recognition of the lack of international fisheries agreements for sharks. WWF's Endangered Seas Campaign

The WWF Endangered Seas Campaign was launched in 1995 and promotes the conservation and sustainable use of marine fisheries. The Campaign is working to build the necessary political will world-wide to end over-fishing, revitalise devastated fisheries, improve management, and reduce the use of destructive fishing gear and practices. The campaign's goal is to halt and reverse the effects of unsustainable fishing on marine fishes and the ocean ecosystems on which they depend (Kemf et al. 1996).

For its first phase (1995–1998), the campaign had three principal targets:

A centrepiece of the campaign's first phase was the establishment of the Marine Stewardship Council. The Endangered Seas Campaign also supported and helped launch TRAFFIC's report on the world-wide trade in shark parts and products. The second phase of the Endangered Seas Campaign (1998–2001) has a new set of related targets: Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was established in 1997 in partnership with Unilever. It is a UK-based registered charity (i.e. independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation) that seeks to improve the status of world fisheries and fish stocks through co-operation with fishermen, processors, retailers, consumers and environmentalists. Its mission is to work for sustainable fisheries by promoting responsible, environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable fisheries practices, while maintaining the biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes of the marine environment. The MSC intends to harness market forces and consumer power to support sustainable fisheries through mechanisms for voluntary, independent, third party certification of fisheries and labeling of seafood products. In this way, the MSC aims at complementing the existing fisheries regulatory regimes and safeguarding both ocean eco-systems and people's livelihoods.

The MSC was formally launched to the fishing sector in June 1998. A few months later, 40 organisations, including fishermen's organisations, fish processors, buyers, food retailers and conservation bodies, had pledged their support for the MSC's objectives and this number is growing rapidly. In 1998 the MSC focused on the developing world and launched a major programme in South America and the Pacific Rim. Future certification of well- managed shark fisheries is a possibility. The products from these fisheries would then receive an important marketing boost.

3.1.4 Greenpeace

Greenpeace (GP) is a large (2.5 million supporters world-wide) international non-profit environmental NGO, established 27 years ago. The Headquarters of Greenpeace International is in Amsterdam, and there are about 30 offices world-wide. The work of Greenpeace is guided by trustees (one representing by each country organisation) who appoint the Board and the director. National organisations have a fair amount of autonomy. Greenpeace campaigns aggressively on a number of issues, including opposition of nuclear energy, dumping at sea, whaling and drift netting and other destructive fishing methods (many of which significantly affect shark populations), and runs a longterm ‘Save our Seas’ campaign. Greenpeace's methods include documentation, direct action (e.g. chasing driftnetters), and public information, as well as convention and policy work. Where local conditions allow, campaigns may seek to influence consumer choice, for example against consumption of juvenile fish (including sharks) in Spain.

Greenpeace believes that its fisheries campaign against highseas driftnets (which started in 1983) was one of the chief stimuli for the UN agreement on driftnetting and, more recently, the driftnet ban in the European Union. The organisation now aims at seeing bycatch minimised to zero levels in ecologically sound and socially just low-impact fisheries. Greenpeace also believes that the international shark trade is one of the driving forces expanding shark catches and supports efforts in CITES and elsewhere to bring it under control (Greenpeace International 1997). On a political level, Greenpeace works as an NGO observer in, and with many national, regional and international forums (including the UN, CCAMLR, CCSBT, CITES, IWC, CITES, NAFO, ICFM, FAO CoFi and other FAO institutions). It was involved in the development of the UN Agreement on Highly Migratory and Straddling Fish Stocks and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Greenpeace has observer status at CITES and has always supported conservation measures for marine species, including proposals for the listing of sawfish through negotiations with CITES authorities and delegations prior and during COP 10.

Greenpeace Germany has recently become interested in shark conservation issues at a national level (Pueschel 1998 a & b, 1997). It published a 5-minute television documentary on shark finning on a purse-seiner in Costa Rica in November 1997 and is discouraging the consumption of shark products among Austrian, German and Swiss consumers. Greenpeace Australia and the Human Society International commissioned a report on White Sharks in Australian waters. Greenpeace UK has expressed concern over the unregulated, potentially irreversible effects of recently developing deepwater fisheries west of the British Isles, including deepwater longlining for sharks (Aikman 1997). It considers that the regulation of these deepwater fisheries will only be achieved through environmental policy. In the absence of the EC adopting such measures, Greenpeace advocates that the UK Government should take unilateral measures to close these deepwater fisheries within their own EEZ.

3.1.5 Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States (HSI/HSUS)

The Humane Society International (HSI) is the international arm of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and has international offices in Australia, Latin America and Europe. The HSUS was founded in 1954 to promote the humane treatment of animals and to foster respect, understanding, and compassion for all creatures. Today, its mandate for care and protection includes the Earth and its environment. The HSUS is the nation's largest animal-protection organisation with more than five million members and nine regional offices in the US. To achieve its goals, the organisation works through legal, educational, legislative, and investigative means. For example, HSUS/HSI sends delegates to major international meetings such as the CITES Conference and Committee meetings where it has a strong advocacy role. HSUS/HSI programs include education, wildlife and habitat protection, bioethics and animal research issues.

HSUS has reacted to shark conservation issues, submitting comments on proposals for shark quotas, responding to action alerts distributed by other NGOs and covering shark conservation issues as part of its wider CITES efforts, but has not initiated any major actions in the USA. The Australian office of HSI, however, is working with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, requesting the Australian government to propose a CIITES listing for the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and possibly other species. This is part of their policy to work through State, Federal and international laws, treaties and forums to seek absolute protection for the white shark. HSI nominated the white shark for protection under both State and Commonwealth nature conservation/species and fisheries management legislation. HSI plans to publish a national shark action plan, with profiles on each of the sharks occurring in Australia, their conservation status, and action needed. They also work on sharks through their campaign on bycatch.

3.2 North America

3.2.1 American Elasmobranch Society

The American Elasmobranch Society (AES) is a professional organisation comprised of international workers studying sharks, skates and rays. The AES is incorporated in Florida, USA (1983) as a non-profit corporation with the objective ‘to advance the scientific study of living and fossil sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras’. Its remit was extended to add: ‘… and the promotion of education, conservation and wise utilisation of natural resources’ in 1995. Standard (voting) or Affiliate (non-voting) membership is open to all persons interested in the above object. There are currently over 500 members including about 100 affiliates, nearly 200 students, and 100 foreign members (about 40 from Europe). No staff are employed; members officers are appointed by ballot from among the standard members. The President, Secretary and Treasurer are elected annually and elected members of the Board of Directors serve five-year terms. A large number of committees serve within the Society, including a Conservation Committee. The AES, with the Florida Museum of Natural History, administers the International Shark Attack File (a compilation of all known shark attacks) and is an important source of expertise on international elasmobranch conservation issues.

The AES holds annual meetings and symposia, several of which have examined the status of elasmobranch resources world-wide. In 1987 the AES was one of the co-sponsors (with the Japanese Group for Elasmobranch Studies) of a United States-Japan Workshop, whose proceedings were published by NOAA (Pratt et al. 1990). Papers from the 1991 AES meeting were also published (Branstetter 1993); these volumes have made a significant contribution to the international elasmobranch conservation and management literature. The AES also gave active support and technical assistance during the preparation of the US Atlantic Shark Management Plan and subsequent revisions, including proposals for the full protection of certain species of elasmobranchs in federal Atlantic waters. Resolutions adopted at the AES June 1998 AGM strongly urge the National Marine Fisheries Services to add an additional species to the latter list of prohibited species and to review sawfishes for possible inclusion in the US Endangered Species List.

3.2.2 Center for Marine Conservation

The Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) is a US-based private, non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the abundance and diversity of the world's marine life and maintaining the ocean's ecological health and integrity. The CMC promotes informed citizen participation through science-based advocacy, research, and public education to reverse the degradation of our oceans. The CMC has 120 000 members and its headquarters are in Washington DC, with regional offices in Virginia, Florida and California.

CMC has worked for many years to promote comprehensive management of sharks in US waters and abroad, under its Marine Wildlife Conservation Program. It played a leadership role in advocating the implementation of the US Atlantic Shark Management Plan and has continued to be closely involved in its amendment and annual management discussions. The CMC also supported the successful bill in the California legislature that has prohibited directed fishing for the white shark in State waters and is pressing for assessment and management of the US Atlantic spiny dogfish fishery. At the international level, CMC has been active in CITES deliberations on sharks and, in co-operation with TRAFFIC, reviewed the scope and potential of existing international agreements and conventions relevant to management and trade in sharks (Weber and Fordham 1997) as a contribution towards these and the shark deliberations being undertaken by FAO.

3.2.3 Living Oceans Program (National Audubon Society)

Living Oceans is the marine conservation program of the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit environmental conservation organisation dedicated to protecting wildlife and wild places and is one of the first NGOs established in the USA over 100 years ago. The Living Oceans Program was initiated in 1990 to reverse the systematic mismanagement of fisheries that has led to the depletion of marine wildlife, and to restore the health of the marine environment and coastal habitats. The Program uses science-based policy analysis, education, and grassroots advocacy to improve the national and international management of marine fishes. Its science-based perspective is intended to bring a credible voice to fisheries policy analysis, negotiations with officials, and collaborative efforts with other conservation organisations. A primary goal of the Living Oceans Program is the conservation and restoration of the oceans' giant fishes, particularly sharks, tunas and billfishes. The Program has been involved in shark convervation and management at many levels, including efforts to improve the US. Atlantic shark management plan and State shark fisheries management efforts (Camhi 1998), raising awareness about illegal exploitation of sharks in the Galapagos and the shark cartilage industry in Costa Rica, supporting the 1994 CITES Shark Resolution, and helping to draft and co-ordinate some of the NGO reports that were submitted to the CITES Animals Committee in fulfilment of the resolution.

3.2.4 Ocean Wildlife Campaign

This North American-based Campaign is a coalition of the National Audubon Society, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Natural Resources Defence Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund. The Campaign was established to strengthen management for large ocean fishes on the global, international and national levels. The Campaign's aim is to reverse the declines in large ocean fish populations and set in place mechanisms for their rebuilding (Mooney-Seus and Stone 1996). Shark conservation and management is an important area of work for the campaign.

3.2.5 Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

The PSRF is a non-profit research, education and advocacy group dedicated to the study and conservation of sharks within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the world formed as a project of the Earth Island Institute in 1990. Its mission is to develop and assist projects that contribute to a better understanding of elasmobranchs with an emphasis on those that contribute to their conservation and management. Several research projects involve most of the species of sharks in the Monterey Bay area and include tagging, tracking, behavioural observations, and the collection of blood and tissue samples and other sundry data, with particular emphasis on white and basking sharks. The PSRF strongly supported the passage of the legislation protecting the white shark off California.

3.2.6 Shark Research Institute

The Shark Research Institute (SRI) is a US-based multi-disciplinary non-profit tax-exempt scientific research organisation created to sponsor and conduct research on sharks and promote the conservation of sharks. It also has an office in Natal, South Africa. Current programs involve tracking studies of whale shark movements, behaviour and DNA studies, environmental advocacy, publications and education. A primary goal is creating value for sharks as sustainable natural resources for the dive tourism industry, particularly in developing countries, to replace revenues from shark fisheries. DNA studies are being used to study migration and the genetic diversity of breeding populations world-wide. A Global Shark Attack database is maintained by the SRI. In addition to work in the US, the SRI whale shark study is involved in tagging and educational work in East and South Africa, the Indian Ocean, Caribbean, and the Philippines where the promotion of tourism is a particularly important component of SRI work. SRI publications include, since 1992, a quarterly newsletter fact sheets and publications for educators (including Levine 1994 and 1998), and reports on SRI whale shark research in South Africa (Gifford 1994 and 1997).

3.2.7 World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US)

See Section 3.1.3

3.3 Europe

3.3.1 European Elasmobranch Association

The European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) was established in October 1996 following several years of preparatory work in recognition of the need for an international organisation to support initiatives for improved elasmobranch conservation and management in Europe and internationally (Fowler and Earll 1994). It is a non-profit body comprised of an association of national organisations dedicated to the study and conservation of sharks and rays. It was set up to coordinate the regional and international activities of its member organisations. Its objectives are to advance research, sustainable management, conservation and education throughout the region. The EEA seeks to address the following priorities:

The EEA's scientific network will formulate a scientific policy and draw up specific research priorities within the areas listed above. The EEA plans to develop collaborative research proposals between its member bodies and other organisations for international funding and implementation.

The EEA currently has member organisations in Germany (Deutsche Elasmbranchier Gesellschaft e. V., see below), Italy (Gruppo Italiano Ricercatori Sugli Squali - an informal group of researchers and interested individuals), the Netherlands (Netherlands Elasmobranch Group, based at the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research), Ireland (Irish Elasmobranch Group, established by the main elasmobranch researchers in Ireland, but with membership open to the public), Portugal (Associação Portuguesa para or Estudo e Conservação de Elasmobrânqueos, see below) and the UK (Shark Trust, see below), with other organisations likely to join shortly from France (ElasmoFrance), Switzerland and Spain. The Association is structured so that only one organisation may join from each European country, although there is more than one elasmobranch NGO in several of these countries. The EEA's Secretariat and newsletter (Shark Focus) is currently provided by the Shark Trust. Descriptions of some of these organisations are produced below.

3.3.2 Associação Portuguesa para o Estudo e a Conservação de Elasmobrânqueos

The Portuguese Association for the Study and Conservation of Elasmobranchs (APECE) was founded in January 1997. It is a non-profit voluntary organization whose goal is promoting elasmobranch research and conservation, and is a member of the EEA. The APECE is now supported by almost 70 members, primarily students and academics. It issues a newsletter, holds seminars on shark conservation, provides students with career guidance, and provides accurate information on elasmobranch issues to the media in Portugal. One scholarship has already been awarded for research on elasmobranchs. The APECE organised the 1998 EEA Science meeting in Lisbon where 30 participants from 9 countries delivered papers and debated issues related to shark conservation.

3.3.3 Deutsche Elasmobranchier-Gesellschaft e. V.

The German Elasmobranch Society (DEG) was established in 1995 by a group of scientists, journalists and interested citizens as a non-profit public utility society under German association law. It is not a purely academic society, but intended to facilitate communication between all German and German-speaking Chondrichthyan specialists, enthusiasts, the general public, and those concerned about the conservation of marine life and threatened species. The organisation has 90 members, including five corporate organisations representing other societies.

Germany has no obvious national Elasmobranch conservation issues (there are virtually none left!), so international shark conservation and management issues are of considerable importance to the Society. The DEG aims at focussing public awareness on the wider issues of consumption of shark products, the world-wide threat to chondrichthyan fishes in particular and marine ecology in general. It does so by providing education and information (particularly through its journal Elasmoskop - issue 5 is in preparation), working with the media, organising courses, discussions and taking action where necessary. It also supports international initiatives for the study and protection of sharks, rays and chimaeras. The DEG was involved in establishing the EEA. It sees contacts and exchange of information and personnel between national and international institutions and organisations involved in research and the conservation of Chondrichthyes as an important aspect of its future activities.

3.3.4 The Shark Trust

The Shark Trust was established in 1997 as a registered wildlife charity. It is the UK member of the European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) and collaborates with other EEA members to promote the study, management and conservation of sharks, skates and rays in British, European and international waters. Its objectives are similar to those of the EEA - the introduction of management for shark, skate and ray fisheries, reduction of bycatch in other fisheries, increased levels of biological and ecological research effort, the conservation and management of critical areas and habitats (e.g. breeding and nursery grounds), promotion of international conservation and research initiatives, and enactment of legal protection for threatened species under national legislation and international conventions (for migratory species). To achieve these goals, the Trust aims at increasing public awareness of the conservation problems faced by the elasmobranchs. It does so through its newsletter Shark Focus, published three times a year, and intends to work with commercial fishermen, recreational sea anglers, divers, yachtsmen, public aquariums, and all other interest groups and individuals interested in the conservation and management of elasmobranchs. It is active in international elasmobranch conservation through its participation in the EEA network and by advocacy to the UK government, and is beginning to support international research and conservation programmes.

3.3.5 The Shark Foundation/Hai-Stiftung

The Swiss based Shark Foundation is a non-profit organisation, approved by the Swiss government. It was founded in August 1997 to support the preservation and protection of shark species and their natural habitats. The Foundation focuses on applied research and public education. It is managed by biologists and businessmen and its scientific board is comprised of well known shark scientists from the USA, South Africa and Switzerland. The Foundation also works closely with ‘Shark Info’, a media service about sharks for German speaking countries, established in 1995.

The Shark Foundation organises lectures, talks and travelling exhibitions to inform the public about the endangered state of many shark species. These activities focus on providing information on finning, overfishing and the destruction of breeding grounds. They also aim to change the generally bad image of these animals. One of the Foundation's main information channels is the Internet. Wellvisited English and German language Web-sites present information on sharks and shark preservation and provide access to the Shark Database (also in English and German). This is a constantly growing searchable database of all shark species, including information on distribution, biology, reproduction, and names in different languages. The Shark Foundation funds and conducts scientific research projects like shark migration studies and DNA population analyses closely connected with shark preservation.

3.3.6 Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the leading environmental charity in the UK dedicated to protecting the marine environment for wildlife and future generations by promoting sustainable and environmentally sensitive management. A particular focus of MCS's work has been the protection of marine species (including sharks) and habitats, and the prevention of pollution in the marine environment. The organisation has worked for twenty years to highlight issues of concern and threats to both marine wildlife and to the wider marine and coastal environment in the UK and internationally, and to bring them to the attention of the public, media, politicians and Government agencies.

The MCS campaigned for ten years for the protection of the basking shark in UK waters (e.g. Horsman 1987), which was announced in March 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The organisation also gathered data that was vital for achieving full protection of the basking shark. This was achieved through scientific study of the behavioural patterns of basking sharks around the Isle of Man (Earll and Turner 1992), a national sightings scheme for observations on numbers, geographical and size distribution in action since 1987, and public awareness campaigns. The database of basking shark sightings contains information on the location, size and behaviour of over 5000 individual sharks and will be further developed to monitor future trends in geographical distribution and population status.

In 1992 the MCS hosted the first European Shark, Skate and Ray workshop which brought together in the UK environmentalists, scientists and government agency representatives from several countries to discuss concerns over threats to elasmobranchs and define the actions required to meet them (Earll 1992). The MCS continues to press for greater protection of elasmobranch species and closer regulation of their fisheries.

3.4 Australasia

3.4.1 Australian Shark Conservation Foundation

The Australian Shark Conservation Foundation (ASCF) is a non-profit sponsorship organisation dedicated to the conservation of Australian elasmobranch species and their ecosystems. The ASCF's main purpose is to inspire positive action and to encourage member involvement and participation in shark conservation issues. It intends to increase public awareness, understanding and protection of elasmobranch species and the environment in which they live by providing a source of accurate, factual media information and public education.

To date, the ASCF has primarily focused on national elasmobranch issues. Its international activity has been related primarily to white shark conservation and management, mostly undertaken through discussions with researchers and advising institutions and policy-making bodies. The ASCF is one of the leading national advocates for the protection of the white shark both at state and federal level and in seeking additional state protection for the grey nurse shark. ASCF worked with the NSW Fisheries Department to organise a national white shark meeting, which was followed shortly by the enactment of protection in most Australian states and in federal waters and the establishment of the White Shark Research Group. This Group co-ordinates work with state representative members. The ASCF is represented on the Group as an active participant in white shark research. The ASCF is also conducting research on shark DNA, grey nurse shark movements and population dynamics in New South Wales, and has programmes for long-term white shark research in South Australia and development of a data base for this species. Other projects include work with industry and fisheries on developing ways to reduce white shark bycatch, advocacy for the reduction of shark meshing on the east coast, and declaration of a no fish zone around reefs in the Coral Sea.

3.4.2 Australian Marine Conservation Society

The AMCS has been actively involved with other partners, in advocacy on shark conservation issues to the Australian state and federal governments. Among other issues, it has supported campaigns for the legal protection of the threatened grey nurse (Carcharias taurus) and white shark in state and federal waters and CITES listings to protect species from threats related to international trade. The AMCS joined forces with the Australian Seafood Industry Council in 1995 to promote the protection of the white shark in Australian waters. It is now working with the Australian office of the Humane Society International to request the Australian government to fulfill an election promise to nominate the white shark for CITES Appendix listing.

3.5 Other regions

3.5.1 Sociedade Brasileira para Estudos de Elasmobranquios - Brazilian Society for Elasmobranch Study (SBEEL)

An informal Shark Group first started to develop a study of the conservation and biology of sharks and rays in Brazil in 1985. After holding seven workshops in different parts of the country the Group created the Brazilian Society for Elasmobranch Study (SBEEL). SBEEL was established in 1995 by 96 founder members-elasmobranch biologists and fisheries scientists from a number of countries. The emphasis put on shark conservation issues by this organisation is evident from the business of the inaugural meeting of the SBEEL which passed several resolutions on shark conservation issues and forwarded them to IBAMA, the Brazilian government agency. As a result, the following became official law in August 1998:

  1. prohibition on use of drift gillnets longer than 2.5km in Brazilian waters
  2. prohibition of finning (no fins to be landed without carcasses)
  3. cessation of the issuance of new regional permits for drift gillnets, placement of observers on driftnet vessels, and reclassification of existing permits to specify net type and intended target species.

3.5.2 Japanese Society for Elasmobranch Studies

This Society was set up in 1977 and was the first organisation in the world dedicated to the elasmobranchs. It has about 200 members, 150 Japanese and 50 from overseas, including shark biologists from Universities and the Fisheries Agency, palaeontologists, aquarium staff, members of NGOs, divers and others interested in the research and conservation of elasmobranch fishes. Annual reports and short reports of field and laboratory research are produced and 34 publications have been issued.


4.1 Introduction

This section briefly introduces some of the major international non-fisheries legislation that may be promoted by environmental NGOs wishing to achieve elasmobranch conservation where fisheries legislation is not available, not applied, or not considered to be having the desired result. Some of these instruments are already used for the conservation or management of elasmobranchs, or have immediate potential for such use because parties are considering making proposals to include elasmobranch management, conservation or species protection under respective treaties. Others not listed may also have the potential capacity to deal with elasmobranch conservation or management issues in a similar manner. Fisheries legislation is not listed (with the exception of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea); it has already been reviewed by Oliver (1996) and Weber and Fordham (1997).

These international instruments and their role in elasmobranch conservation are increasingly likely to be the focus of attention of environmental NGOs. Many of these organisations already campaign to include elasmobranchs in international conservation laws and will continue to press governments to increase use of wildlife instruments for elasmobranch conservation and management, if it appears that fisheries instruments are not being used effectively.

Some governments are already moving to integrate fisheries and environmental policies to protect the marine environment and ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and fisheries. For example, the 1997 Intermediate Ministerial Meeting on the Integration of Fisheries and Environmental Issues (in the North Sea), held in Bergen, Norway, recognised the desirability of an ecosystem approach to fisheries, environmental protection, conservation and management measures. European Fisheries and Environment Ministers resolved at the meeting to follow up and build on the political commitment to integrate further fisheries and environmental policies. Elasmobranchs were one of the named species groups for which competent authorities were invited to establish priorities for the elaboration of stock assessments and forecasts, or other appropriate stock indicators.

4.2 Soft law instruments

These include non-binding declarations, charters or resolutions of international organisations. They have no legal status and are not enforceable, but may have strong moral force and illustrate the increasing consensus that certain governing principles should apply to the conservation of all biological resources, whether wildlife, domestic life forms, or harvested species (de Klemm and Shine 1993). Examples include the following.

Stockholm Declaration, 1972: This Declaration emphasizes the need to protect species and their habitats (‘the natural resources of the earth’-Principle 2), and notes that ‘nature conservation including wildlife must … receive importance in planning for economic development’ (Principle 4).

World Conservation Strategy, 1980: This Strategy was published by the IUCN in co-operation with the UNEP and the WWF, and in collaboration with FAO and UNESCO. Its main goals are: (a) the maintenance of essential ecological processes; (b) the preservation of genetic diversity; and (c) the sustainable use of species and ecosystems. Although not itself adopted as a charter or declaration, the WCS represented an important consensus. Its goals are often included in international treaties (e.g. the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1985, and World Charter for Nature), and in national legislation.

World Charter for Nature, 1982: This Charter was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. It sets out principles of conservation ‘by which all human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged’. The Charter incorporated the Stockholm Principles (above) and the three major objectives of the World Conservation Strategy (see above). The World Charter's Principles include the following: ‘The genetic viability on the Earth shall not be compromised, the population levels of all life forms, wild and domesticated, must be at least sufficient for their survival’ (Principle 2), and ‘Ecosystems and organisms … shall be managed to achieve and maintain optimum sustainable productivity’ (Principle 4).

World Commission on Environment and Development - Brundtland Commission: The UN General Assembly adopted the conclusions of the Brundtland Report in 1987 as a framework for future co-operation in the field of environment and development. The conclusions emphasize the need to preserve biological diversity and to abide by the principle of optimum sustainable yield in the use of natural animal and plant resources.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, (UNCED):

This Conference adopted the Conference on Biological Biodiversity. It also issued the Rio Declaration, and drew up Agenda 21. Fisheries issues, including the deteriorating status of fisheries and fish populations (particularly highly migratory species and populations that were not confined to EEZs) were debated at UNCED. Nations attending the conference called for the convening of a subsequent conference to resolve the pressing management and conservation issues associated with highly migratory and straddling fish populations and this led to the adoption of the UN Convention on the subject (Section 4.2.4).

Rio Declaration, 1992: This Declaration does not incorporate much reference to the conservation of biological diversity, which is covered by the Convention on Biological Biodiversity of the same date (see next section). However, Principle 2 of the Declaration places particular emphasis on the application of the precautionary principle. This principle is now formally enshrined in hard and soft law and a particularly important consideration when addressing the conservation of biological diversity.

Agenda 21: the UNCED Action Plan, 1992: Chapter 15 of Agenda 21 deals with the conservation of biological diversity, and provides a framework for action within the context of the Convention on Biological Biodiversity.

4.3 Binding Instruments-Treaties and Conventions

4.3.1 General Nature

These instruments apply when a shared resource is to be preserved, managed, or harvested by more than one country. They enable Parties' agreement to establish uniform rules, identify and rank priorities jointly, and organise co-operation. They can also be used to demonstrate the Parties' commitment to species conservation and management, or other guiding principles, and may empower governments to take action or enact appropriate legislation not otherwise allowed by its constitution (de Klemm and Shine 1993).

4.3.2 Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was concluded at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and there are over 130 member countries. The CBD aims at conserving biological diversity and promoting the sustainable, fair, and equitable use of its benefits. Parties are required to develop, or adopt, national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in accordance with the CBD, to monitor components of biological diversity that are important for conservation, and to identify and monitor activities with likely adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The 1995 meeting of the CBD Conference of Parties adopted the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity which calls on Parties to act for the sustainable use of marine and coastal living resources. As a result of the CBD, many Parties are developing national strategies for the conservation of their biodiversity. At least one Party (the UK) has developed biodiversity action plans for the conservation of certain species of elasmobranchs including the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), the common skate (Raja batis) and other commercially fished species as a part of this strategy. The UK also lists tope (Galeorhinus galeus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus), and blue shark (Prionace glauca) as species of concern in the context of the CBD. These commercially-fished elasmobranchs have been identified as a component of marine biodiversity that requires management and monitoring under the scope of a wildlife convention, at a stage when no fisheries management for these species has been considered, let alone implemented, in the UK - and indeed Europe.

4.3.3 Bonn Convention (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals)

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) was signed in 1979, and came into effect in 1983 after the 15th ratification. It now includes Parties from Africa, America and the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The CMS recognises the need for countries to co-operate in the conservation of animals that migrate across national boundaries, or between areas of national jurisdiction and the high seas, if an effective response to threats operating throughout a species' range is to be made. It provides a framework within which Parties may adopt strict protection measures for migratory species that have been categorised as endangered (listed under Appendix I), or conclude Agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species that have an unfavourable conservation status (listed in Appendix II). These Agreements are open to accession by all states in which the species concerned ranges, not just CMS Parties, and may cover any species that would benefit significantly from international co-operation.

The Convention was initially directed at the problems of conservation of migratory birds and the CMS now covers a much wider range of species, including seals and cetaceans. No migratory elasmobranchs have yet been proposed by Parties for listing on an Appendix to this Convention, but such proposals are likely in the future, particularly since there is no requirement for a species to be endangered before it is addressed by the CMS.

4.3.4 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES came into force in 1975, and by late 1997 included 142 countries as party to the Convention. The Convention was established to protect species of wild fauna and flora from overexploitation through international trade. Appendix I of CITES lists those species that are threatened with extinction and for which no international trade is allowed except under exceptional circumstances. Trade in Appendix II species is subject to strict regulation and monitoring to ensure that it is not detrimental to the status of the listed species. CITES is now widely accepted by a large number of States as the world convention covering international trade in wild species and several other conventions (e.g. Bern Convention and the ASEAN Agreement) no longer cover this role.

Only a few marine fish species have been listed in any of the CITES Appendices (e.g. sturgeons, all species of which are now on Appendix I or II) and none are elasmobranchs. Only one proposal for a marine elasmobranch listing has been debated by a former Conference of the Parties (COP): a proposal for the listing of all sawfishes (Pristiformes) was rejected with a vote of 24 for and 50 against. However, it is likely that further listing proposals for elasmobranchs will be presented at future meetings. For example, CITES listings proposals for the endangered sawfishes, vulnerable species including the white shark and basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), and other elasmobranchs will continue to be pursued by NGOs concerned that international trade in these species is threatening their survival. While, alas, not all listings proposals supported by national NGOs are successful in receiving the agreement of the CITES Parties, a few proposals are debated.

In addition to efforts to add shark species to the CITES Appendices by requesting their national governments to make proposals at conferences, several prominent NGOs supported the development and adoption of a landmark resolution (9.17) entitled ‘The Status of International Trade in Shark Species’. This resolution was introduced by the United States at the 9th meeting of the Conference of the CITES Parties in November 1994. The WWF, TRAFFIC, the National Audubon Society and Center for Marine Conservation all participated in a working group that drafted the compromise resolution that set in motion CITES efforts to review the status and trade in shark species despite their not being listed in the CITES Appendices. These efforts, conducted primarily through the CITES Animals Committee, continue to depend on the technical expertise and advice of these and other NGOs that have continued to be actively involved in shark conservation and trade discussions in the context of CITES.

Despite no elasmobranch actually having been listed on the CITES Appendices, an enormous amount of information has been gathered on elasmobranch trade as a result of Resolution Conf. 9.17; these data will aid in the future management of elasmobranchs. Additionally, this resolution originally prompted the FAO's Committee on Fisheries to organise an expert Consultation on the conservation and management of sharks. During this Consultation, shark experts determined the specific requirements for sustainable shark species management (including the collection of improved biological and trade data collection) and developed guidelines for better management of elasmobranch fisheries. The Consultation culminated in the agreement of an International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks) in October 1998. This was formally adopted by the FAO's 23rd Committee on Fisheries in February 1999.

Finally, as pointed out by Weber and Fordham (1997), even though no elasmobranchs are listed in a CITES Appendix, CITES may still contribute towards elasmobranch management by using its established trade monitoring role to collect information on catch and trade that are crucial to the proper management of fisheries. CITES still provides the only international legal mechanism to enable these aspects of the IPOA-Sharks to be implemented.

4.3.5 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

UNCLOS was adopted in 1982 and came into force in July 1994. It provides a framework for the conservation and management of fisheries and other uses of the seas. Its provisions on the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of coastal states (Article 56) and high seas provisions require cooperation between states for the conservation and utilisation of highly migratory species, which may be achieved by bilateral agreements or an international organisation. Coastal states are also required to consider the effects of fishing on associated and dependent species (Article 61(4)), and the management goal adopted by UNCLOS (Aticle 61[3]) is that of maximum sustainable yield, qualified by environmental and economic factors.

4.3.6 UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks

This Agreement, adopted in 1995, facilitates implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions relating to the conservation and management of high seas fish stocks. The Agreement will enter into force for each State or entity that ratifies, or accedes, to it 30 days after receipt of the 30th ratification. The Agreement will establish rules and conservation measures for high seas fishery resources (and is complemented by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which sets out principles and international standards of behaviour). The Agreement calls for Parties to protect marine biodiversity, minimise pollution, monitor fishing levels and stocks, provide accurate reporting of, and minimise, bycatch and discards, and gather reliable, comprehensive scientific data as the basis for management decisions. It mandates a precautionary, risk-averse approach to the management of these species. The Agreement also directs States to co-operate in relation to these species through appropriate fishery management organisations or arrangements.

Under UNCLOS, oceanic sharks defined as highly migratory species are: bluntnose sixgill (Hexanchus griseus), basking shark, whale shark, Alopiidae spp., Carcharinidae spp., Sphyrnidae and Lamnidae. Other species and populations may qualify as a ‘straddling stock’ under Article 63(2) of the Convention, particularly in areas where jurisdiction has not been extended to 200 miles. For these sharks, co-ordinated management and assessment of shared migratory populations would promote an understanding of the cumulative impacts of fishing effort on the status of shared populations.

4.4 Regional Treaties

4.4.1 Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea (1976)

The Barcelona Convention Protocol concerning specially protected areas and biological diversity in the Mediterranean was signed in 1995. Three elasmobranchs (white shark, basking shark, and giant devil ray-Mobula mobular) are listed in Annex II, Endangered or Threatened Species, and should receive full protection when the Convention is ratified. Annex III, ‘Species Whose Exploitation is Regulated’, lists shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), porbeagle, blue shark, white skate (Raja alba), and angelshark (Squatina squatina).

4.4.2 Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats)

The Bern Convention was set up under the auspices of the Council of Europe, but its membership is not restricted to member states. It aims ‘to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats, particular emphasis being given to endangered and vulnerable species’. Animal species listed in Appendix II must be strictly protected by the Parties, and the damage or destruction of their breeding sites prohibited. Parties are also encouraged to prohibit the possession and sale of strictly protected species. Appendix III lists animal species whose exploitation must be regulated in order to keep their populations out of danger (Appendix I lists plants). Species protected under the Bern Convention are also included under the European Habitats Directive (see below).

At the Bern Convention meeting in December 1997, several elasmobranchs were added to the Convention, albeit from the Mediterranean Sea only. Two species are now listed on Appendix II (Strictly protected fauna): the basking shark (with an EU reservation), and the devil ray. Five species are listed on Appendix III which requires regulation of species populations to keep them out of danger. These are the mako shark, porbeagle shark, blue shark, white skate, and angel shark. These Bern Convention listings bring it in line with the listings of the Barcelona Convention Protocol with the exception of the white shark.

4.4.3 European Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora)

This Directive is a major contribution by the European Community to the Biodiversity Convention that was agreed to by more than 150 countries at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It does not list any protected elasmobranchs at present, although species added to Appendix II of the Bern Convention are automatically added to the Habitats Directive. The devil ray may, therefore, now be on the Habitats Directive, but the EU reservation on the Bern Convention listing of the basking shark at present prevents the inclusion of this species. Future revisions of the Habitats Directive appendices will likely result in further additions of elasmobranchs, provided that the question of the precedence of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is resolved. Some sources state that the Council of Ministers and the Commission of the European Union exercise absolute competence in the conservation and management of marine fish and their fisheries through the CFP; therefore the opportunities for using alternative legislation to manage marine fish are limited.

4.4.4 ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1985

This agreement requires Parties (i.e. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) to give special protection to threatened and endemic species and to preserve those areas which constitute critical habitats of endangered or rare species, of species that are endemic to a small area, and of migratory species. This Treaty is based on the objectives of the World Conservation Strategy and is one of the most modern, comprehensive and forward-looking of all conservation treaties (de Klemm and Shine 1993). It could be used for the conservation of threatened or migratory elasmobranchs, such as the whale shark.

4.4.5 Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas of the East African Region

The Protocol on Protected Areas and Wild Fauna and Flora was adopted by this Regional Seas Convention, in 1985. It applies to all areas of the Indian Ocean that come under the jurisdiction of the Parties, including coastal waters, territorial seas and EEZ. Appendix II lists animal species in need of special protection; many are taken from the current IUCN Red Data Book of Endangered Species. Parties are required to take all appropriate measures to ensure the strictest protection of Appendix II species. Appendix III lists exploitable species for which protection measures are necessary. The exploitation of these species must be regulated in order to ‘restore and maintain populations at optimum levels’. Appendix IV lists a few migratory species, requiring Parties to coordinate their protection efforts in respect of these species (de Klemm and Shine 1993). No elasmobranchs appear in these Appendices (few listed species are even marine), but Parties could manage or protect elasmobranchs listed in future under the Regional Seas Convention.

4.4.6 Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region

The comprehensive protocol dealing with protected areas and species conservation under this Regional Seas Convention was signed in 1990. It applies to territorial seas, EEZ and other internal, or territorial, waters and related areas. Contracting Parties are required to identify endangered or threatened species of wild flora and fauna under their jurisdiction and accord them protected status. They are also obliged to take appropriate measures to prevent species from becoming endangered or threatened and to establish co-operation programmes to assist with the management and conservation of protected species and to develop regional recovery programmes (de Klemm and Shine 1993). Elasmobranchs could potentially be added to the appropriate Appendices of the Protocol.

4.4.7 Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific

Article 14 of the SREP Convention deals with protected areas and the protection of wild flora and fauna. There is potential for protecting or managing elasmobranchs under this convention.


I gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by the representatives of numerous NGOs, who generously assisted by correcting my earlier drafts and providing additional information.


Aikman, P. 1997. Is Deepwater a Dead-End? A policy review of the gold rush for ‘ancient deepwater’ fish in the Atlantic Frontier. Greenpeace-UK, London.

Branstetter, S. (Editor). 1993. Conservation Biology of Elasmobranchs, U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Report NMFS 115.

Camhi, M. 1998. Sharks on the Line: A State-by-State Analysis of Sharks and Their Fisheries. Living Oceans Program, National Audubon Society, Islip, New York, USA.

Camhi, M., Fowler, S., Musick, J., Brautigam, A., and Fordham. S. 1998. Sharks and their relatives - ecology and conservation. Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 20. IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. iv + 39 pp.

Chen, C.T., K.M. Liu and S.J. Joung. 1997. Preliminary Report on Taiwan's Whale Shark Fishery. TRAFFIC Bulletin 17(1): 53–57, and an unpublished TRAFFIC report in Chinese. 5pp.

Chen, G.C.T., K.M. Liu, S.J. Joung. and M.J. Phipps. 1997. Shark Fisheries and Trade in Taiwan. 57pp. TRAFFIC. (In Chinese.)

Chen, G.C.T., K.M. Liu, S.J. Joung. and M.J. Phipps. December 1996. Shark Fisheries and Trade in Taiwan. Unpublished TRAFFIC report. 48pp.

Chen, K.H. (Ed.) 1996. Shark Fisheries and the Trade in Sharks and Shark Products of Southeast Asia. 38pp. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.

de Klemm, C. and C. Shine 1993. Biological Diversity Conservation and the Law. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ixi + 292 pp.

Earll, R.C. (Editor) 1992. Shark Skate & Ray Workshop. Proceedings of workshop. Marine Conservation Society, Ross on Wye, UK.

Earll, R.C. and J. Turner 1992. A review of methods and results from a sighting scheme and field research on the basking shark in 1987–92. Based on the research of S. Farmery, H. McLachlan, A. Stagg, J. Strawbridge, and P. Strong. Database update by K.S. Tang. Marine Conservation Society, Ross on Wye, UK.

Fleming, E.H. and P.A. Papageorgiou. 1997. Shark Fisheries and Trade in Europe. 78pp. Traffic.

Fowler, S.L. and R.C. Earll, (Eds.) 1994. Proceedings of the second European Shark and Ray Workshop, 15–16 February 1994: Tag and release schemes and shark and ray management plans. Unpublished report. 57 pp.

Fowler, S.L. In prep. Proceedings of an International Workshop and Seminar on Elasmobranch Biodiversity and Conservation, Sabah, July 1997. Shark Specialist Group.

Fowler, S.L., M. Camhi, A. Brautigam, G. Burgess, S. Fordham and J. Musick. In press. Sharks, rays and chimaeras: the status of the chondrichthyan fishes. IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Fowler, S.L., M. Camhi, A. Brautigam, G. Burgess, S. Fordham and J. Musick. In prep. Sharks, rays and chimaeras: A Global Action Plan for the chondrichthyan fishes. IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Gifford, A. 1994. Preliminary Whale Shark Tagging & Survey Program, for the period December 1, 1993 to April 30, 1994: SRI-Africa, Durban.

Gifford, A. 1997. Report on the Third and Fourth Whale Shark Tagging and Survey Programs, for the Period: May 1, 1995 to April 30, 1997: SRI-Africa, Durban.

Greenpeace International 1997. “Top predators duel: Sharks 15 - Humans 100 000 000”. in: “CITES under Threat”, Greenpeace. June 1997.

Hanfee, F. 1997. Trade in Sharks and Shark Products in India, A preliminary survey. 50pp. TRAFFIC.

Horsman, P.V. 1987. The Basking Shark, Cetorhinus maximus - A species under threat? Marine Conservation Society, Ross on Wye, UK.

IUCN/SSG 1993. DRAFT - Status of shark populations in the western North Atlantic for the Global Shark Action Plan. G.H. Burgess (compiler).

IUCN/SSG 1993. DRAFT - The status of chondrichthyan resources in the south west Pacific: report of the south west Pacific regional subgroup for the Global Shark Action Plan. J.D. Stevens (compiler).

IUCN/SSG 1995. DRAFT - Regional Synopsis on the NE Pacific Region for the Global Shark Action Plan. S.F. Cook (compiler).

IUCN/SSG 1995. DRAFT - The status of elasmobranch fisheries in the western north Pacific: the report of the northwest Pacific regional subgroup for the Global Shark Action Plan. S. Tanaka (compiler).

IUCN/SSG 1993. Preliminary report of the Subequatorial African Region, Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic Oceans for the Global Shark Action Plan. L.J.V. Compagno, M.J. Smale, S.F.J. Dudley, and S.F. Cook (compilers).

IUCN/SSG 1993. The status of elasmobranch fisheries in Europe. Report of the Northeast Atlantic Subgroup for the Global Shark Action Plan. Muñoz-Chápuli, R., G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, B. Séret, M. Stehmann (compilers).

IUCN/SSg 1994. Preliminary report from the Southwest Atlantic Region for the Global Shark Action Plan. Alberto de Amorim (compiler).

Kemf, E., Sutton, M. and A. Wilson 1996. Marine Fishes in the Wild. A WWF Species Status Report. World Wide Fund for Nature, Gland, Switzerland.

Laurenti, A. and L. Rocco. 1998. Indagine sul Commercio degli Elasmobranchi: La Situazione in Italia. TRAFFIC Europe - Italy, Rome.

Levine, M. 1994. Q & A Sharks. New Holland Publishers Ltd., London.

Levine, M., 1998. Great White Sharks. Weigl, Calgary.

Marshall, N.T. and R. Barnett (Eds). 1997. Trade Review: The Trade in Sharks and Shark Products in the Western Indian and Southeast Atlantic Oceans. 132 pp. TRAFFIC.

Mooney-Seus, M.L. and Stone, G.S. 1996. The Forgotten Giants: giant ocean fishes of the Atlantic and Pacific. Ocean Wildlife Campaign, Washington DC and New England Aquarium, Boston, Mass., USA.

Oliver, A. 1996. Draft discussion paper pursuant to CITES Resolution CONF. 9.17. An overview of the biological status of shark species. US National Marine Fisheries Service. Report prepared for the CITES Animals Committee, Silver Springs, Maryland. 53pp + appendices.

Phipps, M.J. 1996. Shark Fisheries and Trade in the East Asian Region. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.

Pratt, H.L. Jr., Gruber S.H., and T. Taniuchi (Eds). 1990. Elasmobranchs as living resources: advances in the biology, ecology, systematics, and the status of fisheries. U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Report NMFS 90.

Pueschel, P. 1998. “Haie: Die faszinierenden Jäger der Meere sind bedroht”. Juni 98. Greenpeace Germany.

Pueschel, P. 1998. “Das Meer, der Fisch und der Handel”. in: Fischmagazin, Kap.“Meeres- und Artenschutz”. Jan/Feb 98. Greenpeace Germany.

Pueschel, P. 1997. “Den Haien geht es an die Flossen - Kneift CITES vor der Fischindustrie?”. Mai 1997. Greenpeace Germany.

Rose, D.A. 1996. An Overview of World Trade in Sharks and Other Cartilaginous Fishes. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK. 106 pp.

Rose, D.A. March 1998. Shark Fisheries and Trade in the Americas, Volume 1: North America. 143 pp. TRAFFIC.

Sant, G. and E. Hayes (Eds). 1996. The Oceania Region's Harvest, Trade and Management of Sharks and other Cartilaginous Fish: An Overview. 70pp. TRAFFIC.

TRAFFIC Oceania and TRAFFIC USA. August 1996. A TRAFFIC Network Report to the CITES Animals Committee on the TRAFFIC Network Global Shark Trade Study. Unpublished report. 3 pp.

Weber, M.L. and Fordham, S.V. 1997. Managing shark fisheries: opportunities for international conservation. TRAFFIC International and the Center for Marine Conservation.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page