The Shark Specialist Group

  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2011
  • Archived
Project type
  • Conservation

There are more than 1,400 sharks, rays and chimaeras living in all parts of our oceans. To protect them, conservation needs to happen on a global scale. The IUCN Shark Specialist Group works with organisations worldwide to do just this.

The Shark Specialist Group

Nick Dulvy

Project leader
About the project leader
I have often wondered what is hidden beneath the silvery veneer of the water’s surface. That film is so thin, yet what lies underneath is profoundly different from the air and land above that are so familiar to us. I first marvelled at what lay beneath the surfaces of the myriad rivers and lakes of Ireland. An old fishing rod opened the door to a new world of red-eyed roach, surface-feeding shoals of rudd and shoals of bream. Little was I to know that this would lead to a Bachelor’s degree in zoology and physiology (fish studies) rather than biotechnology, and...
Project details

Securing the conservation of sharks and rays

Key objective

The longer-term aim of this project is to coordinate activities of those conservation and management agencies and organisations concerned with the current and future status of chondrichthyans, and set the agenda for the future.

Why is this important

Sharks, rays and chimaeras include some of the largest top predators in marine and freshwater ecosystems. The global IUCN Red List status assessment of all known 1,044 sharks, rays and chimaeras has just been completed and 33% are threatened.


The past decade has seen the development of a number of important conservation and management successes for selected chondrichthyans: sawfishes, and white, basking and whale sharks have been listed on CITES; seven species have been listed on the Convention of Migratory Species; the FAO generated recommended National Plans of Action, and an increasing number of countries and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations implemented finning bans. These successes were arguably opportunistic and relied heavily on the expertise of relatively few key individuals. A more coordinated and strategic approach to the conservation and management of chondrichthyans could be even more successful, indeed essential, if we are to respond to the scale of the problem. So far only a handful of species have any form of effective protection or management after a decade of effort – yet there are at least 181 threatened species requiring urgent attention. There are few active scientists and experts working on chondrichthyan science and conservation; only around 300 people contributed to the Red List assessment of over 1,000 species. This fundamentally limits the capacity of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group network, and the wider science and conservation community.

There is an urgent need to prioritise activities to decide which species to focus attention on, and which conservation and management opportunities would provide the greatest return on our investment. We urgently need to protect and manage shark fisheries and trade in a sustainable manner, and the recent failure to list a number of shark and tuna species at CITES shows the scale of this challenge. The next stages for the conservation, management and protection community are two-fold: to identify specific opportunities for the conservation, management and protection of chondrichthyans at national, regional and international scales, and to implement and enforce these measures.

Aims & objectives

We aim to develop a strategic plan to secure the conservation of sharks, rays and chimaeras. This symposium and strategic plan will seek to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities among the suite of agencies, organisations and policies that contribute to shark conservation.

The three key objectives are to:

  • Identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities among the suite of agencies, organisations and policies that contribute to shark conservation.
  • Develop a strategic shark conservation plan.
  • Communicate this strategic plan.