Shark Conservation Efforts: The Legal Battle to Protect Endangered Species

Wildlife law Feb 24, 2024

Shark conservation efforts are reinforced by several key legal measures and international agreements to protect these endangered species and their critical habitats. The Shark Conservation Act, enacted in the United States, is a significant piece of legislation in this area. It prohibits the practice of shark finning, where fins are removed from sharks, and the rest of the body is discarded at sea. This Act mandates that sharks must be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached, except for smooth dogfish.

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This law is an amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, reinforcing the U.S.’s commitment to sustainable shark management and the elimination of harmful fishing practices.

Internationally, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) plays a vital role in shark conservation. CITES regulates the international trade of endangered species, including several shark species, to ensure that their trade does not threaten their survival. The 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) of CITES marked a significant advancement in shark conservation by extending protection to 54 shark species, including all species of the requiem shark family and hammerhead sharks. This inclusion in CITES Appendix II means that international trade of these species will require a special permit, ensuring legal and sustainable trade.

Furthermore, the Lacey Act in the U.S. prohibits the illegal trade of wildlife, including sharks, and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides a conservation program for endangered and threatened species and their habitats. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law for governing marine fisheries in U.S. federal waters, focusing on preventing overfishing and rebuilding overfished stocks, which is crucial for shark species.

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These laws and international agreements represent a comprehensive approach to shark conservation, combining efforts to regulate trade, protect habitats, and manage fisheries sustainably. They reflect a growing recognition of the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems and the need for their conservation. For more detailed information on these laws and their impact on shark conservation, you can visit NOAA Fisheries, Shark Allies, and Oceanographic Magazine.

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