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Ongoing decline of coral reef sharks

Sharks have been around for over hundreds of millions of years. While many of us may be familiar with a few shark species, there are over 400 species worldwide, from the 0.2 meter- long (8 inches) dwarf lantern shark to the 12 meter-long (40 feet) whale shark. Sharks are efficient predators with a highly developed sense of smell, hearing and sight. Sharks are carnivorous and eat fish (including other sharks) as well as larger animals such as seals. Others, like the whale shark and the basking shark, feed on tiny plankton or krill.

Coral reef sharks have vanished or become very rare in many coral reef sites showing an ongoing collapse in once the most abundant reef shark species. Their steep declines have been clearly observed in Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. No-take zones offer almost no protection for coral reef shark populations, with significant population declines. Further, all our field monitoring at 32 marine sites in Southeast Asia has shown steep decline or local extirpation of all known species of coral reef sharks. Despite increasing fishing pressure, reef shark catches are not subject to specific fishing limits. The main management and conservation approaches typically depend upon no-take marine reserves to maintain shark populations.

On coral reefs, sharks are predators that play a key role in maintaining healthy reef ecosystems. For instance, studies have shown that overfishing of sharks has created catastrophic trophic cascades that have contributed to the collapse of Caribbean coral-reef ecosystems.

Our work to save sharks

Endangered Species International (ESI) is working to stop overfishing and illegal fishing of sharks with special focus on coral reef sharks including the whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus). Coral reef sharks are the forgotten animals with populations in sharp decline. Urgent and important steps are required for protecting these critical animals from ecological extinction. Immediate and substantial reductions in shark fishing including for aquarium trade are ESI conservation priority to stem their ongoing collapse.

To protect sharks, Endangered Species International:

  • Creates effective marine protected areas with an area of at least 10 km2 (107 ft2). Smaller marine protected areas fail to protect sharks;

  • Provides proper surveillance and enforcement of marine protected areas;

  • Conducts ongoing shark and marine conservation awareness along coastal communities.

  • Supports coastal communities in engaging marine conservation activities such as banning plastic waste in ocean, mangrove planting, and sustainable fishing;

  • Monitors shark populations at protected areas to ensure their recovery and protection;

  • Supports law enforcement agencies against illegal shark fishing in Southeast Asia.

With your support, we can make sure these magnificent animals continue to thrive in the oceans. With ESI, you are ensured that you put your money where your hearth is.

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