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Oceans and Coasts

Protecting Sharks

Hundreds of different shark species roam our oceans and play different important roles in the ecosystem. Forty species of sharks swim in Hawaiian waters alone.

Sharks are apex predators, which means they are at the top of the oceanic food chain. This also means that they have a direct impact on the ecology of our oceans.

Some species of shark – like the blacktip reef shark and the tiger shark – feed on the sick or injured fish of a reef system, creating resilient populations of fish and other marine life. This balanced system supports fishing, tourism and other economic activities in our ocean that help marine communities thrive. Without sharks, marine ecosystems will change, threatening both livelihoods and the natural environment.

The Nature Conservancy is working around the globe to protect and restore important ocean habitats. From the pristine living laboratory of Palmyra Atoll to the coral nurseries off the coast of Florida to the Coral Triangle of Indonesia, our scientists are working with governments, businesses, and other partners to improve the way we care for and utilize our oceans and improve their ability to take care of us.

Recent events in the world of marine conservation are encouraging for sharks, including the declarations of new marine sanctuaries, bans on selling fins, and other commitments that recognize the importance of sharks to people, economies and nature. Is 2013 the year we stop fearing sharks and began fearing a world without them?

Shark Facts:

  • An estimate 73 million sharks are killed solely for their fins which are then used to make soup, but many US states including California and a few countries have recently implemented or are considering bans.
  • There are hundreds of shark species in our ocean ranging in size from the deep-water pygmy shark (about 8 inches) to the whale shark (up to 50 feet or more) and they all play different roles in the ecosystem.
  • Sharks are frequently cited as one of the top attractions for divers, bringing in millions of tourism dollars annually to some island communities.
  • Sharks are top predators and many healthy coral reef systems need sharks to balance the population of other marine life.

Help us as we protect and restore marine habitats for sharks and other marine life. 



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