The main threats to sharks and rays are overfishing, followed by habitat loss, persecution, and climate change.
The GPSR believes major investments are needed in conservation science, policy, communications and media, outreach and advocacy, capacity-building, and monitoring. Our strategy, which is informed by discussions and input from leading scientists, policy makers, and conservationists, envisions transforming the shark and ray conservation landscape through funding projects in these strategic areas:
Build the Scientific Case
Increasing our ecological understanding of these species will aid in determining the best methods for protecting them. Inadequate basic ecological knowledge, underreported catch, unassessed stocks, and uncharacterized trade all must be addressed with significant investments in policy and management-relevant data collection and analysis. With over 500 data deficient species, our current scientific understanding of the status of sharks and rays at the local, national, and global level is inadequate for sound regulation and management. Additionally, there is a dearth of knowledge on where to establish marine protected areas for sharks and rays and the best methods for implementing them, the impacts of climate change on sharks and rays, and the efficacy of shark and ray management practices.
Increase Public Demand for Better Protection
Recent public awareness campaigns have elevated the public’s knowledge of the conservation challenge sharks and rays face. However, while public opinion in the United States, parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have shifted towards conservation and improved management, in most of the rest of the world because of socioeconomic realities, sharks and rays are valued primarily for their meat, fins, oil, and gills, rather than the valuable roles they play in ecosystem structure and function. Targeted communications campaigns are needed to galvanize public support, and political will, necessary for spurring conservation and management action.
Establish Effective Policies, Laws and Regulations
Science and public action alone will not save the world’s sharks and rays. The era of unregulated shark and ray fisheries must end. Leveraging growing public interest, targeted campaigns must be launched at international forums like CITES to drive sustainable shark and ray management around the world. In key geographies where the political will for conservation may be present, resources and capacity must be enhanced to allow for the development of effective conservation and management systems. Investments must support institutional conservation and management capacities so that critical legal, policy, and/or regulatory frameworks can be developed and leveraged to advance shark and ray conservation through protecting species, reducing bycatch, curtailing overfishing, and establishing and managing marine protected areas.
Support Implementation, Enforcement, and Incentives
Once conservation and sustainable management rules are established, compliance and enforcement is necessary to ensure that our investments are conserving sharks and rays. A variety of implementation investments are necessary, including traditional top-down control and surveillance for formalized industrial fisheries and protected areas, and in community-scale fisheries, bottom-up community-driven conservation and adaptive rule making, compliance, and sanctioning are more appropriate. Additionally, incentive-based compliance (e.g., development of alternative livelihoods to shark and ray fishing and improved fishing gear to minimize bycatch) and innovation to incentivize behavior change (e.g., electronic monitoring systems to reduce shark bycatch) are needed for successful shark and ray conservation and management.