United Nations
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
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
United Nations