The Future of Shark Conservation: Protected Areas

Mar 20 2024

Sharks and rays are one of the most endangered groups of animals on the planet. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, over one third of shark species are threatened with extinction. 

The world is facing a biodiversity crisis, with scientists predicting that we are on track to reach a tipping point in 10 years, where reversing species losses will no longer be possible. Over the last century, fisheries have had a massive cumulative impact on sharks and this threat has been compounded by habitat loss and climate change. Extinction threats are even higher in coastal habitats where 75% of threatened species occur. Currently, sharks are one of the most threatened taxa in the world, second only to amphibians.

Shark population and biodiversity loss have widespread and significant effects on both coastal and high seas ecosystems. Sharks are top, sometimes apex predators, and play a key role in maintaining healthy ecosystems just as predators do in terrestrial systems. Loss of shark populations, especially among those that act as top predators, have been linked to wider ecosystem imbalance and eventual decline in ecosystem health and biodiversity.

Sharks are in desperate need of journalists who understand the peril they’re facing and the importance of their survival to our ocean’s ecosystems. The more sharks are understood and respected, the more likely policies can be put into place to protect them from vanishing– a devastation with major consequences.

The shark landscape is complex and often viewed through a consumer’s lens – a lens that looks for dramatic stories full of shark bites and shore-line evacuations. Luke Warwick, Director of Shark and Ray Conservation for the Wildlife Conservation Society, pleads for journalists to “spend time exploring sharks’ late maturity, long gestations, and live births ... facts that make the recovery of sharks so difficult and why stronger shark conservation measures are needed globally.”

This media guide, compiled by a variety of shark conservation organizations and experts, and produced by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, provides the highlights of facts, figures, terminology, experts and web resources as reference to the greater world of sharks.