Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years. While they have survived mass extinction events, sharks have not evolved to withstand overexploitation by humans.
Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems, serving as an indicator of ocean health. Despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived and give birth to few young, making them extremely vulnerable to overexploitation.
Oceana is working internationally to protect and restore shark populations. Through policy, science, legal and communications work, Oceana is pushing for true shark finning bans, species-specific shark management and reduced shark bycatch. The loss of sharks will have devastating and unpredictable consequences for ocean ecosystems.
In 2009, actress January Jones ("Mad Men") joined Oceana as the spokesperson for our shark campaign. Watch video, see photos, and learn why January is scared for sharks. You can find more ways to take action for sharks here.