Help Save Sharks!

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Sharks are beautiful animals that have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs. Almost all types of sharks face extreme pressure due to overfishing - but you can help! Read about the issues below or schedule your own Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive to learn about these misunderstood animals and the challenges they face.

kids looking at sharksDid you know?
Sharks are essential to OCEAN HEALTH

Sharks are top-level predators that help maintain a balance in the marine food web. Many sharks prey on wounded or sick animals, keeping the populations of various species healthy. Others scavenge the ocean by feeding on dead animals or by filter feeding. The loss of sharks due to overfishing may mean the loss of many more species, including those that humans rely on for food.
In most commercial fisheries, the meat of a shark has little value. The fins, however, are highly valued and are used for shark fin soup and medicinal purposes. Every year, millions of sharks fall victim to the horrific practice of finning. The fins of the shark are cut off and the rest of the shark is discarded in the sea to die.

Many sharks also are caught in nets and fishing lines, as accidental bycatch. Longline fishing, bottom trawlers, and gillnets produce large numbers of shark bycatch. Simple gear changes, innovative hook designs, and new fishing methods could greatly reduce shark bycatch while also giving higher yields of target fish and saving time and money for fishing crews.

Learn More (Warning: Graphic video)

Shark populations ARE in peril

Sharks mature late in life. Many do not start reproducing until they are 10 years or older, and many species give birth to only a few young. Consequently, many don’t reproduce quickly enough to keep up with the intense level of fishing and accidental bycatch.

Sharks are unreasonably feared by people

jawsWe are constantly subjected to stereotypical characterizations of sharks in the media that promote fear and loathing. In reality, our chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other dangers. It’s estimated that for every fatal shark attack, up to 25 million sharks are killed by humans. Fatalities due to sharks average less than one person per year in the United States and are usually due to mistaken identity. Swimmers and surfers appear similar in shape to seals, sea lions, and turtles -- the primary diet of some sharks -- when seen from below.


half shark cutout facing leftWashington state has played a key role in the protection of sharks and is one of ten states that have banned the sale and trade of shark fin products. But there is still an urgent need for responsible management and monitoring at the national, regional, and international levels to prevent the extinction of shark species. Tell your representatives in Congress that you want stronger laws protecting sharks.


...but don't take our word for it! To learn more about sharks and meet our sharks up close, stop by the South Pacific Aquarium or register for your own Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive.

Shark Conservation Updates

Some exciting progress recently:

May 2015 - Sharks and rays are listed as AZA SAFE species. The Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s “Saving Animals From Extinction” campaign focuses the collective expertise within accredited zoos and aquariums, including Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, in convening scientists and stakeholders to identify the threats, develop action plans, raise new resources and engage the public in saving shark and ray species.

June 2015 - Texas becomes the 10th US State to ban the sale of shark fin products joining Washington, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, New York, and Massachusetts.

November 2015 - Washington State passes Initiative 1401 banning the sale of 10 endangered animal products including sea turtles, sharks, and rays. Metro Parks Tacoma endorsed this measure while staff members at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium collaborated with colleagues at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium to educate the public about the perils facing these endangered species.

April 2016 - Two Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium dive staff members travel to the Socorro Islands Biosphere Preserve off the coast of Mexico to help in a crucial project to track sharks’ movements over time. The Zoo Society’s Dr. Holly Reed Wildlife Conservation Fund paid for their travel expenses and donated acoustic receivers which will collect long-term data on the tagged sharks. The Zoo staff members also collected tissue biopsies from Galapagos sharks and Manta Rays, and conducted surveys on the number of hammerhead sharks in the area. This hotspot for large sharks is home to silky, Galapagos, silvertip, hammerhead, whitetip reef, dusky, and tiger sharks. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff worked in collaboration with conservation organizations “Fins Attached” and “Pelagios Kakunja."

June 2016 - The Shark Fin Elimination Act of 2016 is introduced to Congress. While the act of shark finning is illegal in US waters, shark fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the United States. This bill would ban the trade of shark fins in the United States.

August 2016 - The Socorro Islands are named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This designation recognizes the importance of this area for feeding, migration, and breeding for 20 species of sharks and 5 species of rays along with hundreds of fish, turtle, and marine mammal species. With this listing, resources can be rallied for the preservation and protection of this ocean ecosystem.

August 2016 - Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands becomes the largest ecologically protected area on the planet. This monument, measuring 582,578 square miles (1.5 million square kilometers), is more than twice the size of Texas and is home to more than 7,000 marine species.

March 2018 – A Win for Wildlife
Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature have approved $300,000 to fund the Washington Animal Trafficking Act for 2018-2019. This Act bans the trafficking of products from ten groups of endangered animals including sharks. Enforcement is key to catching poachers and traffickers, and this funding will allow Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers to inspect more cargo, expand the K-9 detection program, develop lab testing of evidence, and apprehend traffickers - stopping the wildlife trade in its tracks. 

March 2018 – Sustainable Shark Fisheries and Trade Act in Congress
Led by Reps. Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Ted Lieu (D-CA), H.R. 5248, the Sustainable Shark Fisheries and Trade Act, would require a nation seeking to export shark, ray, and skate products to the U.S. to receive certification from NOAA finding that it has management and conservation policies in place for these species comparable to those in the U.S., including science-based management to prevent overfishing and a prohibition on shark finning. By holding imports to the same standards that U.S. domestic fisheries already meet, this bill aims to level the playing field for U.S. fisheries and use access to the U.S. market to encourage other countries to adopt and implement management measures that support the sustainable trade in sharks, skates and rays. 


You can help save sharks

  • Talk to your friends and family about sharks. Tell people that sharks are awesome and you’re more likely to die from hitting a deer than from a shark bite.
  • Never buy shark fin soup, shark cartilage pills, or souvenirs like shark jaws.
  • Join us and make a contribution to shark conservation.
  • Help end shark finning. Washington State banned this gruesome practice. Tell your representatives in Congress that you want strong federal laws protecting sharks.
  • Use your Seafood Watch card or phone app to choose sustainably harvested seafood, a practice that avoids the unintended capture of sharks.

more to explore

Discovery’s Save the Sharks
Videos and information on protecting shark populations.

Fins Attached
Conducting research, promoting conservation, and providing education for the protection of marine ecosystems.

Project AWARE Foundation
A growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time.

Washington State’s Shark Fin Law
The Washington State law on the ban on the sale of shark fins and shark fin derivatives.

Shark Identification in Washington State
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife identifies sharks and shark relatives in Puget Sound.

Seafood Watch
This program from Monterey Bay Aquarium helps consumers and businesses make responsible seafood choices for healthy oceans.

Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Shark and fish history and biology information as well as the International Shark Attack File.