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Improving international cooperation to conserve and better manage sharks and rays
by Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOU- UNEP/CMS) (United Nations entity)
Many Sharks and Rays are globally threatened, mainly through overfishing and bycatch and the lack of proper management. At the same time, many sharks and rays play a key ecological role in marine ecosystems. Removing sharks or rays from the food web or reducing them significantly in their numbers may have severe negative effects on the functioning of marine ecosystems and would thereby jeopardize the provision of important ecosystem service such as provisional, regulatory and cultural services.
In light of the severe threats to sharks and rays and in acknowledgement of their important role, the Sharks MOU was concluded in 2010 within the framework of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS).
This young intergovernmental instrument represents the first global agreement which aims to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for sharks and rays based on the best available scientific information and taking into account the economic value of sharks and rays for Range States. Where scientific information is limited, it was agreed that the precautionary approach should be applied.
Currently, 29 species are covered by the MOU, ranging from critically endangered sawfish species, manta and mobula rays to a number of commercially exploited species, including mako sharks.
The Signatory states are committed to implement a comprehensive Conservation Plan in cooperation with other organizations relevant for the conservation and management of sharks and rays, including Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, the Food and Agriculture Organization, Regional Seas Conventions and biodiversity-related conventions.
Despite past and ongoing scientific research and monitoring, knowledge of the biology, ecology, and population dynamics of many migratory sharks is still rather deficient. Hence, as a matter of highest priority Signatories aim to improve the understanding of migratory shark populations, which is key to inform decision makers on the most appropriate and efficient species specific conservation and management measures, through research and monitoring.
Another main objective of the Conservation Plan is to ensure that directed and non-directed fisheries for sharks and rays are sustainable, and that bycatch is mitigated or kept at ecologically acceptable levels. To this end, reporting and information sharing as well as a strong cooperation with and through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations is regarded as key for the success of the Sharks MOU.
The Signatories have agreed to identify the most critical habitats and migration corridors of sharks and rays and to prioritize those for management and conservation.
In order to pave the way for enhanced public participation in conservation activities, the Signatories agreed to increase overall public awareness of threats to sharks and their habitats.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Community or Locally Managed Marine Areas
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Large Marine Ecosystem approach
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
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
  • Reduction and elimination fishing practices and gear that destroy/degrade marine habitat
  • Science-based fisheries management plans
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
  • Eco-labelling, traceability, certification programmes
  • Market-based instruments (Individually Traded Quotas, Vessel Day Schemes, etc.)
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • No take marine protected area
  • Marine protected area with partial protection
  • Multiple use marine protected area
  • Locally or community managed marine areas
  • MPA management and/or enforcement
By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
Type of commitment
  • Removal or reduction of harmful fisheries subsidies
  • information relating to harmful subsidies
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable fisheries
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Scientific, socioeconomic and interdisciplinary research
  • Research capacity development
  • Data access and sharing
  • Training and professional development
  • Scientific cooperation
  • Transfer marine technology
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Legal/policy/institutional measures
  • Access to market-based instruments
  • Transfer of fishing technology
  • Access to coastal fishing grounds
  • Access and capacity building for eco-labelling and traceability systems
  • Community empowerment for fisheries management
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Activities to raise awareness of the comprehensive legal and policy framework for the sustainable development of oceans and seas, in particular UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments and promote their effective im
  • Ratification, accession and acceptance of UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments
  • Activities to develop the capacity of States towards broader participation in and effective implementation of UNCLOS and its implementing Agreements
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
  • Development of necessary infrastructure and/or enforcement capabilities to comply with international law, as reflected in UNCLOS and as complemented by other ocean-related instruments
Understanding of migratory shark populations, their ecology and threats improved
Critical sites and migration corridors of migratory sharks and rays identified and prioritized for conservation
Species specific conservation and management measures identified and agreed
Cooperation on management of catch and bycatch of sharks and rays with relevant orgnaizations improved
Financing (in USD)
400,000 USD
In-kind contribution
Implementation of research and conservation projects by Cooperating Partners
Staff / Technical expertise
Managerial and administrative support from UNEP/CMS
Staff / Technical expertise
Technical assistance from the Sharks MOU Advisory Committee and Conservation Working Group
Basic information
Time-frame: 2017 - ongoing
42 Signatories: Australia (Government), Belgium (Government), Chile (Government), Colombia (Government), Comoros (Government), Republic of Congo (Government), Costa Rica (Government), Denmark (Government), Egypt (Government), European Union (Government), Germany (Government), Ghana (Government), Guinea (Government), Italy (Government), Jordan (Government), Kenya (Government), Liberia (Government), Libya (Government), Mauritania (Government), Monaco (Government), Nauru (Government), Netherlands (Government), New Zealand (Government), Palau (Government), Philippines (Government), Portugal (Government), Romania (Government), Samoa (Government), Saudi Arabia (Government), Senegal (Government), Somalia (Government), South Africa (Government), Sudan (Government), Sweden (Government), Syria (Government), Togo (Government), Tuvalu (Government), United Arab Emirates (Government), United Kingdom (Government), United States of America (Government), Vanuatu, (Government) Yemen (Government) and other Range States of migratory sharks and rays, Cooperating Partners: Humane Society International-Australia (NGO), Humane Society International-USA (NGO), International Fund for Animal Welfare (NGO), MarAlliance (NGO), Project Aware (NGO), Shark Advocates (NGO), The Manta Trust (NGO), The Shark Trust (NGO), Wildlife Conservation Society (NGO), UNEP/CMS (United Nations), UN Environment (United Nations), UNEP Regional Seas (United Nations)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Private sector (tourism, fisheries), International Organizations addressing biodiversity and/or marine resources conservation, local communities
Contact information
Andrea Pauly, Ms., andrea.pauly@cms.int,
Other SDGs
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