Global Shark Conservation: Good News for Some Species, Alarming Trends for Others

shark fins

Reversing overfishing, climate change, and population growth can seem insurmountable. Safina Center Fellows strive to amplify the global conservation discussion and, in targeted ways and places, they make a difference. Their drive to redefine the future of our planet starts with the belief that progress is possible. —Carl Safina

In the following interview, shark experts and Safina Center Fellows, Debra Abercrombie and Demian Chapman, discuss hopeful advances as well as alarming trends in shark conservation worldwide. And we get a look at their innovative shark fin identification training that helps customs and wildlife officials enforce new regulations on the global shark fin trade.

Shark fins used during identification workshops. Photo by Stan Shea.

You two have been leading Shark Fin Identification Workshops all over the world in the past three years. How does your work help protect sharks?

Debra: Sharks and their relatives, the rays, are threatened in a number of ways, but the demand for fin soup in Asia drives the chief threat to many species—overexploitation. At the 2010 meeting of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), proposals to regulate international trade of oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three large hammerhead shark species were rejected based on an assumption. At that time, most people thought it was impossible to determine which shark species a fin belonged to without offsite genetic testing. Another assumption was that this genetic testing was simply not feasible due to time and cost constraints.

Well, in 2010 Demian and I had both been working in shark conservation for over 15 years. We had been developing genetic techniques to identify shark species and their products in the global fin trade. Our work had given us the rare opportunity to inspect thousands of fins firsthand. We knew that the fins for these five shark species were highly —> Read More