The Real Shark Week Just Ended With a Big Win for Six Species

A United Nations group votes to protect the predators threatened by overfishing and shark finners.

A hammerhead shark at the Galápagos Marine Reserve. (Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Nov 9, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

It’s raining sharks—in a good way.

On Sunday, the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species wrapped up a weeklong meeting in Quito, Ecuador, by voting to list six shark species as threatened, obligating member nations to work together to protect the predators in danger from overfishing, finning, and other perils. The U.N. treaty organization also agreed to list the reef manta, nine devil rays, and five sawfishes.

"Today's unprecedented actions more than triple the number of shark and ray species slated for enhanced conservation initiatives,” Sonja Fordham, president of the nonprofit Shark Advocates International, said in a statement.

Ian Campbell of the World Wildlife Fund and a delegate from Fiji noted that manta and devil rays produce one offspring every few years, putting them at risk of dramatic population declines from overfishing.

Sharks haven’t been doing so well themselves.

A study released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature this year found that a quarter of shark and ray species are threatened with extinction. A report published in 2013 estimated that between 63 million and 273 million sharks are killed annually. Many are inadvertently caught in giant nets cast by fishing trawlers. Others are slaughtered by shark finners, who cut off their fins and throw the still-living animal back into the ocean to die. The fins are sold to restaurants in Asia to make soup.

Costa Rica’s Isla del Coco World Heritage site, for instance, is a crucial sanctuary for hammerhead sharks. Nonetheless, as many as three dozen fishing vessels were recently spotted in the area, some of which belonged to suspected shark finners.

The shark species protected on Sunday are two types of hammerheads, three thresher shark species, and the silky shark.

"From hammerheads of the Galápagos to threshers in the Philippines, sharks are incredibly popular attractions for divers," Ania Budziak, an official with Project AWARE, an organization of divers dedicated to marine protection, said in a statement. "With increasing recognition of the economic benefits of associated tourism, divers' voices are playing a key role in winning protections for these iconic species."