International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks

About IPOA-Sharks


The objective of the IPOA-SHARKS is to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use. The term “sharks” is taken to include all species of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras (Class Chondrichthyes). The IPOA-SHARKS applies to States in the waters of which sharks are caught by their own or foreign vessels and to States the vessels of which catch sharks on the high seas.


  • States should adopt and implement a national plan of action for conservation and management of shark stocks (Shark-plan) if their vessels conduct directed fisheries for sharks or if their vessels regularly catch sharks in non-directed fisheries. When developing a Shark-plan, experience of subregional and regional fisheries management organizations should be taken into account, as appropriate.
  • States, within the framework of their respective competencies and consistent with international law, should strive to cooperate through regional and subregional fisheries organizations or arrangements, and other forms of cooperation, with a view to ensuring the sustainability of shark stocks, including, where appropriate, the development of subregional or regional Shark-plans
  • States which implement the Shark-plan should regularly, at least every four years, assess its implementation for the purpose of identifying cost-effective strategies for increasing its effectiveness.
  • States which determine that a Shark-plan is not necessary should review that decision on a regular basis taking into account changes in their fisheries, but as a minimum, data on catches, landings and trade should be collected.
  • Where transboundary, straddling, highly migratory and high seas stocks of sharks are exploited by two or more States, the States concerned should strive to ensure effective conservation and management of the stocks.
  • States should strive to collaborate through FAO and through international arrangements in research, training and the production of information and educational material.
  • States should report on the progress of the assessment, development and implementation of their Shark-plans as part of their biennial reporting to FAO on the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Goals of the Shark-plan

  • Ensure that shark catches from directed and non-directed fisheries are sustainable
  • Assess threats to shark populations, determine and protect critical habitats and implement harvesting strategies consistent with the principles of biological sustainability and rational long-term economic use
  • Identify and provide special attention, in particular to vulnerable or threatened shark stocks
  • Improve and develop frameworks for establishing and co-ordinating effective consultation involving all stakeholders in research, management and educational initiatives within and between States
  • Minimize unutilized incidental catches of sharks
  • Contribute to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function
  • Minimize waste and discards from shark catches in accordance with article 7.2.2.(g) of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (for example, requiring the retention of sharks from which fins are removed)
  • Encourage full use of dead sharks
  • Facilitate improved species-specific catch and landings data and monitoring of shark catches
  • Facilitate the identification and reporting of species-specific biological and trade data 

Role of FAO

  • FAO will, as and to the extent directed by its Conference, support States in the implementation of the IPOA-SHARKS, including the preparation of Shark-plans.
  • FAO will, as and to the extent directed by its Conference, support development and implementation of Shark-plans through specific, in-country technical assistance projects.
  • FAO will assist in identifying experts as required and possible means of technical assistance to national departments of fisheries countries in connection with the implementation of Shark fishery management programmes.
  • FAO will, through COFI, report biennially on the state of progress in the implementation of the IPOA-SHARKS. 

Legal foundation

The IPOA-SHARKS is voluntary. It has been elaborated within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as envisaged by Article 2 (d). All concerned States are encouraged to implement it.