United Nations
Safeguarding Sharks and Rays of the Atlantic and Mediterranean through RFMOs
by Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, Project AWARE, and Ecology Action Centre (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
The Problem
Sharks and rays are among the oceans most vulnerable yet under-protected animals. Many populations have been seriously overfished, putting entire ecosystems at risk. Most countries lack catch limits for key species, while many finning bans - relying on complicated ratios instead of complete prohibitions of removal of fins at sea - remain weak. The sharks and rays of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are particularly beleaguered. International and domestic fisheries management improvements are urgently needed to protect these vulnerable species from overfishing and finning. Sustained engagement by experienced conservationists is vital for driving ambitious policies that ensure long-term sustainability of shared resources.
Sound management for wide-ranging shark and ray species is urgently needed, and requires many countries working responsibly in concert.

Solutions and Objectives:
The world's Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) provide an avenue for swift conservation action throughout shark and ray species ranges. RFMO decisions are critical to the sustainability of regional shark and ray populations, and can bring significant cascading benefits for other areas and species. Improved management by the RFMOs governing Atlantic and Mediterranean fisheries is essential for the effective conservation of scores of shark and ray species.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT): ICCAT has before it scientific advice that could lead to groundbreaking catch limits for the worlds most heavily fished oceanic sharks: shortfin mako and blue sharks. If adopted, such measures would prompt the first such limits for European Union fleets (which have the worlds highest landings of these species) and could inspire similar measures on a global scale. Meanwhile, support is growing among ICCAT members for a stronger regional finning ban.

Objective: ICCAT Parties to agree science-based international fishing limits for shortfin mako and blue sharks, and a ban on removing shark fins at sea

The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM): The GFCM 2012 ban on fishing and retaining the 24 species of exceptionally vulnerable Mediterranean shark and ray species (listed on Annex II of the Barcelona Convention, an international environmental treaty aimed at protecting the Mediterranean) includes commercially valuable shortfin makos, endangered guitarfishes, and critically endangered angel sharks. There is, however, very little evidence that the measure has been properly implemented through domestic prohibitions.

Objective: GFCM to address non-compliance with the shark and ray measure, and its Parties to immediately adopt corresponding national bans, as agreed in 2012.

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO): NAFO began limiting the regions international skate fisheries in 2004, but quotas have remained higher than the level advised by scientists. The excessive catch limits leave room for serious overfishing, particularly for depleted thorny skates. There is also need to examine the sustainability of exceptionally vulnerable deep sea shark species that are taken incidentally in NAFO fisheries.

Objective: NAFO Parties to reduce skate quotas to align with scientific advice, and to safeguard deep sea sharks.
Progress reports
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Compliance, monitoring and enforcement
  • Science-based fisheries management plans
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
November 2018
- Collaborative, in-person advocacy for science-based shark and ray fishing limits at annual meetings and related stakeholder forums associated with NAFO, ICCAT, and GFCM
November 2018
- Promotion of government proposals aimed at ensuring sustainable Mediterranean and Atlantic shark and ray fishing at regional (NAFO, ICCAT, and GFCM) and national level
Novemeber 2018
- Education and engagement of the wider conservation community with respect to key Atlantic and Mediterranean fisheries management problems and solutions
Staff / Technical expertise
Ecology Action Centre is a recognized leader in Canadian conservation policy, and the only Canadian conservation group consistently engaging on shark policy issues at national and international levels.
Other, please specify
Project AWARE brings to the shark and ray policy debate the special, influential voice and civic engagement of its global constituency of scuba divers, along with its decade of shark and ray conservation experience at international fora.
Staff / Technical expertise
Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation, brings 25 years of expertise in securing science-based shark and ray fishing limits, threatened species protections, and finning bans. Shark Trust has a 20-year record of effective
Other, please specify
This project is made possible by a generous grant from the Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays (www.sharksandrays.org).
Basic information
Time-frame: November 2016 - November 2018
Shark Advocates International (a project of The Ocean Foundation; Non-governmental Organization; Washington, DC) Shark Trust (Non-governmental Organization; Devon, UK), Project AWARE (Non-governmental Organization, California; US) and Ecology Action Centre (Non-governmental Organization, Nova Scotia; Canada), Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays (Philanthropic Organization)
Ocean Basins
  • North Atlantic
  • South Atlantic
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Ania Budziak, Associate Director of Programs at Project AWARE, ania.budziak@projectaware.org,
Other SDGs
United Nations