Our Approach

Creative Commons: Arend Kuester

The SCF believes that major investments are needed in policy development, outreach and advocacy, conservation science, communications and media, capacity-building, and long-term monitoring. Our overarching objectives are to:

· Protect the most endangered sharks and rays by enhancing legal protections in priority countries and international forums; 

· Combat unsustainable trade in shark and ray products through listing the top species of sharks and rays in global trade and that meet CITES listing criteria on CITES Appendices and implementing those listings; and

· Combat unsustainable shark and ray fishing through the adoption and implementation of conservation and management measures through international forums and in priority countries.

To achieve these objectives, we support conservation projects that:

Oceanic whitetip shark.

Creative Commons: Michael Aston

Protect the Most Endangered Sharks and Rays

The SCF defines the sharks and rays that are the most endangered as “imperiled” meaning they are categorized as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and data deficient predicted threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These species can be broken into two general categories, endemic or widely distributed, each requiring a different management approach. Endemic sharks and rays are only found in certain regions or countries allowing for more geographically targeted conservation efforts. Therefore, an objective of the SCF is to protect imperiled endemic sharks in countries with high concentrations of those species.

Conservation of widely distributed imperiled sharks and rays requires different approaches because it is difficult to identify a clear geographical focus. A number of these species are listed on Appendix I or II of CITES and Appendix I, II, or both I & II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which offers an opportunity to use implementation of these listings to promote their restoration through better management in target countries. In addition, a major source of mortality for these species is as bycatch or valuable secondary catch in high seas fisheries, which offers the opportunity to use management measures such as the establishment of precautionary catch limits, time/areas closures or gear modifications or restrictions adopted by tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs) such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), as well as in target countries as restoration tools.

Finally, focusing on some of the most endangered families of sharks and rays provides another useful way to target species that are most in need of protection. 

· Sawfishes are among the most threatened families of marine fishes. The IUCN classifies three of the five sawfish species as Critically Endangered and the other two as Endangered. 

· Angel Sharks are the second most threatened family of elasmobranchs, containing at least 23 species, half of which are listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable by the IUCN. 

· Hammerhead sharks are globally distributed, highly migratory and threatened with extinction. Three species are listed on Appendix II of CITES, but are still top shark species in global trade. 

Creative Commons: Florian Klauer

Combat Unsustainable Trade in Shark and Ray Products 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, was established to protect species of wild fauna and flora from overexploitation through international trade. CITES is among the world’s earliest and most powerful multi-national environmental agreements. It came into force in 1975, and today over 94% of the world’s countries are Parties. There are three Appendices to the Convention. Appendix I species are threatened with extinction for which no international trade for primarily commercial purposes is allowed. Appendix II species may not be threatened, but may become so unless their trade is strictly regulated. Appendix III includes species that are subject to regulation within the jurisdiction of a Party, which needs the cooperation of other Parties to restrict overexploitation. 

Trade in products from species listed in any of the Appendices is regulated under a system of permits and certificates, to ensure that it is legal and not detrimental to the status of wild populations of the listed species. A country’s CITES Management Authority can only issue export permits that allow trade in species included in Appendix II (or non-commercial trade in species included in Appendix I) if the Scientific Authority of the exporting country has first advised that “such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species”. These non-detriment findings (NDFs) are intended to ensure that exports of products from listed species covered by the NDF have not harmed wild populations or ecosystems. 

The SCF is interested in making CITES listings work through training, developing tools and guidelines and capacity building. As well as preparing and advocating for additional listings of shark and ray species that are the top species in global trade and that meet CITES listing criteria.

Oslob Whale shark

Creative Commons: Klaus Stiefel

Combat unsustainable Shark and Ray Fishing

Some species of sharks have life history characteristics (e.g., the production of more offspring and a lower age of sexual maturity) that may make them better suited to withstand fishing pressure. Given this and the fact that shark and ray fishing is an important source of protein and income in many countries, combating unsustainable shark and ray fishing is important. To do this SCF will support the adoption of policies and regulations at international fora, as well as through implementation of those policies at the national level in target countries. Tuna RFMOs regulate fisheries that catch the largest numbers of sharks and rays in international waters. They also have authority over fisheries in 91% of the world’s ocean surface and management measures that apply to the vessels of member countries wherever they fish for tuna and related species. The fisheries they regulate include long-line and purse seine fisheries that primarily target highly migratory species like tunas and billfish, but also catch sharks as an important secondary catch and are important sources of mortality for threatened migratory species like hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks. 

The SCF will focus on ICCAT and WCPFC because both commissions have adopted important shark conservation measures, have, or soon will have, legal authority to manage sharks, and have jurisdiction over large areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and fisheries that kill large numbers of sharks.  

Implementation of CMS and CITES Appendix II listings can also be used to combat unsustainable fisheries management within countries wishing to trade in listed species through the development and implementation of NDFs, development of required CITES Legal Acquisition Findings and development and implementation of CMS Concerted Actions

A more detailed description of our approach can be found in our Investment Strategy.