Protection of species

Shark accidentally caught on a longline.

Innovative Project Aims to Reduce Shark Bycatch

In La Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean that is an overseas department and region of France, small-scale fishers often use surface longlines targeting tuna and billfish, but this sometimes leads to the accidental capture of sharks.

The EU-funded ASUR project is researching innovative methods to reduce the incidental catch of sharks by these longlines, bringing together scientists and fishermen to tag and release sharks and to test equipment designed to reduce shark mortality.

Shark dorsal fin with shark still attached.

Shark conservation: A critical reassessment needed

Over the past two decades, sharks have become emblematic of the world's threatened wildlife, leading to heightened scientific, regulatory and public scrutiny. However, a recent study challenges the effectiveness of these protective measures, revealing that global shark mortality has not only persisted but increased, despite increased regulations and finning bans.

There are two subspecies of West Indian manatees: the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) and the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), the latter of which is shown above. In the United States, manatees are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the take (i.e., harass, hunt, capture or kill) of all marine mammals.

Manatees up for protection

Federal wildlife authorities are re-evaluating the classification of manatees, a move prompted by mounting issues, most notably the devastating loss of seagrass, a critical food source for these gentle marine creatures.

A Long-Overdue Review

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its intention to revisit the categorization of manatees, contemplating a return from “threatened” to “endangered.” This potential reversal would overturn the 2017 decision to reclassify manatees.

Ecotourism increases the probability of sharks being in a disturbed behavioural state, likely increasing energetic expenditure and potentially leading to downstream ecological effects.

Behavioural consequences of shark ecotourism

Ecotourism, particularly shark diving tourism, has become a significant global industry, attracting over half a million participants annually across approximately 85 countries. While it generates substantial revenue and raises awareness for shark conservation, concerns about its impact on shark behaviour and health, as well as human safety, persist.

Ecotourism has been posited as a potential solution to many of the issues facing shark conservation, yet increasingly studies suggest that such activity may negatively influence aspects of shark ecology and so further pressure declining populations.

— Joel H. Gayford, et al.

Lithographic print of men in whaleboat lancing a sperm whale.

Iceland suspends controversial whale hunt

“I have taken the decision to suspend whaling” until 31 August, food minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said in a statement, after a recent government-commissioned report concluded the hunt does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act.

The report which provided a video showing a whale being hunted for five hours concluded the killing of whales during the hunt took too long.

Animal rights groups and environmentalists hailed the decision, with the Humane Society International calling it “a major milestone in compassionate whale conservation”.

Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk at Hong Kong
File photo of Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk at Hong Kong

Brazil seizes record haul of illegal shark fins

Brazil's environmental protection agency, Ibama, estimated that approximately 11,000 blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks, which Brazil listed as endangered last month, were killed.

The fins, which were destined for Asia, where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy, were found in two locations.

This blue whale was encountered near the Channel Islands of California.
This blue whale was encountered near the Channel Islands of California.

Sustainable shipping program protects endangered whales

Ship strikes are a major threat to whales globally and to the recovery of endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales in California waters. From 2007-2022, observed and documented deaths totalled 52 endangered whales, likely representing a small fraction of the annual total number of ship strikes.


The voluntary incentive program ran from May 1, 2022 through December 15, 2022, with twenty-three shipping companies participating. The 10-knot target allowed ships to travel at an efficient operating load using less fuel and producing less pollution.

Shark fins still attached to their rightful owners

President Biden signs the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act represents a multiyear effort by lawmakers, under pressure from animal-rights and ecological organizations such as the Animal Welfare Institute and Oceana, to ban the trade of shark fins. 

Seventeen states and three U.S. territories have banned or restricted the intrastate sale of shark fins, but instituting a federal framework is critical as fins imported and sold in the U.S. can come from endangered or threatened shark species, or from sharks that were finned.

The vaquita is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List
The vaquita is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List

Mexico enhances vaquita protection

The Mexican government has announced the successful conclusion of a project involving the placement of 193 cement blocks on the sea floor in strategic locations in the vaquita’s habitat.

Called the Concrete Block Planting project, the objective was to discourage the setting of gillnets within the Zero Tolerance Area, where the remaining vaquita population is localised. Large steel hooks protrude from the top of the blocks, trapping any gillnets they come into contact with.

In early October, after nearly three months, the 193rd block was finally placed on the sea bed.