For 25 years, Discovery's Shark Week has offered television viewers a unique look into the world of sharks, the ocean’s top predators. But at the Pew Environment Group, it's always Shark Week.
For nearly 400 million years, various types of sharks have patrolled the oceans, weeding out the weak among prey and maintaining balance in the marine ecosystem. But in the past half-century, overfishing of sharks has devastated their numbers, and up to 73 million are killed each year, primarily for their fins. In recent months, though, conservation efforts have led to several key victories for sharks.
Learn more about what has been done globally to save sharks, which are critical to ocean diversity.
1. The Bahamas prohibited commercial shark fishing in the country's waters.
Commercial shark fishing is not permitted in the approximately 630,000 square kilometers (243,244 square miles) of the country’s waters.
2. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) agreed to protect sharks in the eastern Pacific.
Sharks are found throughout the world's tuna fisheries, and are often unprotected. The IATTC took a big step forward for shark conservation when it agreed to protect oceanic whitetip sharks.
3. Chile banned shark finning and requires all vessels catching sharks to land them with fins naturally attached.
An estimated 53 species of sharks are found in Chilean waters. The country's regulations will help to keep this diverse population healthy and strong.
4. Tokelau, a self-administered New Zealand territory, declared itself a shark, whale, and turtle sanctuary.
Encompassing Tokelau's entire exclusive economic zone, this sanctuary joined a global trend to protect sharks and give them a place to thrive.
5. The Republic of the Marshall Islands established the world's largest shark sanctuary.
An area about three times the size of France, 1,992,232 square kilometers (769,205 square miles) of ocean is now free from commercial shark fishing. Since then, the Marshall Islands fined a Japanese vessel $US125,000 and another two vessels from Taiwan and Spain, $US55,000 each for fishing or carrying shark in their waters. A fourth local vessel was caught, but is still under investigation.
6. The 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas agreed to ban the retention of silky sharks.
Cutting sharks loose from fishing gear while they are still alive gives them a real chance to survive. As a result of this agreement, silky sharks that are accidentally caught must be put back in the sea, helping to end harmful bycatch.
7. Honduras burns confiscated shark fins.
To showcase the country's dedication to enforcing its shark sanctuary, top law enforcement officials burned hundreds of illegal shark fins. Worth up to US$700 per kilogram (US$300 per pound), the fins were destroyed to remove them from the global marketplace.
8. Venezuela bans shark finning in its waters and creates a protected area.
Commercial shark fishing is now prohibited throughout the 3,730 square kilometer (1,440 square miles) of the Caribbean Sea that make up the popular Los Roques and Las Aves archipelagos.