Shark Conservation: A Timeline

Humane Society International

  • Fins still attached. © Veer

Humane Society International has been working to increase global awareness about the threats these vulnerable predators face, as well as the crucial role they play in maintaining healthy oceans. Much progress has been made, but the situation for most sharks remains dire. View a map of current shark finning regulations and shark fin product bans worldwide.

Advances and disappointments in international shark conservation, 2005-present:

2013: The government of Hong Kong announced that it would not serve shark fins at any official functions and instructed governmental employees not to consume shark fins at external functions. 

2013: Legislation to end the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in California went into effect.

2013: Delaware shark fin ban signed into law.

2013: Maryland became the first state on the U.S. east coast to ban shark fin trade.

2013: The oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two species of manta rays, great and reef, were listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which will provide regulation on international trade in these species and offer protection from overexploitation.

2013: A federal court in San Francisco issued a ruling upholding landmark legislation prohibiting the sale of shark fins in California.

2013: The Illinois law banning the sale of shark fins went into effect.

2012: Union of British Columbian Municipalities passed a near-unanimous resolution calling on the provincial government to ban the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins, and for the federal government to ban the import of shark fins into Canada.

2012: The European Union resolved to strengthen shark finning laws, making it more difficult than ever for fishermen in EU waters to cut the fins from living sharks.

2012: The government of French Polynesia banned fishing for all shark species in the country’s entire exclusive economic zone, effectively establishing the world’s largest shark sanctuary.

2012: The Cook Islands banned the possession, sale, and trade of shark products and put an end to commercial shark fishing in its entire exclusive economic zone.

2012: The City of Duncan in British Columbia, Canada unanimously voted to ban the sale of shark fins, effective January 1, 2013.

2012: New Westminster City Council unanimously passed a ban on the trade, sale and distribution of shark fins.

2012: Catch and possession of sharks within three nautical miles of the shoreline of American Samoa was banned in November, 2012.

2012: The City of Langley, British Columbia banned the sale, purchase and consumption of shark fins, including shark fin derivatives.

2012: The township of Langley, British Columbia banned the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fin products.

2012: The cities of Abbotsford and Maple Ridge in British Columbia banned the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fin products.

2012: The city of North Vancouver, British Columbia banned the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fin products in the municipality.

2012: China’s state council announced that the Chinese government would no longer serve shark fin dishes at official functions.

2012: Hong-Kong based Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it would halt shipments of shark fin and shark fin products.

2012: Illinois became the fifth state in the U.S. to ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins.

2012: The city of North Vancouver, British Columbia, passed a motion to draft a bylaw to ban the possession, trade, sale, and distribution of shark fin products in the municipality.

2012: The New York bill (S. 6431/A. 7707) to ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins that was introduced in April passed the Assembly but was not picked up by the Senate before the session adjourned.

2012: In Canada, the cities of Newmarket, Ontario and Port Moody, British Columbia prohibited the sale, trade, consumption and possession of shark fin and shark fin products.

2012: Illinois State HB4119 to prohibit the passed the state Senate and House the sale, trade, consumption and possession of shark fin.

2012: Bills to prohibit the sale, consumption and possession of shark fin were introduced in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

2011: Shark fishing and possession and sale of sharks and fins were banned in Sabah, Malaysia.

2011: Federal legislation that would prohibit the importation of shark fins into Canada was introduced.

2011: In Canada, the cities of Brantford, Oakville, Mississauga, London and Pickering passed bans on the sale of shark fins.

2011: The governor of California signed a bill banning shark fin trade (AB376) into law.

2011: The Republic of Marshall Islands banned commercial shark fishing, sale of shark products, and retention of sharks caught incidentally.

2011: Taiwan announced that it would implement a fins-naturally-attached policy to reduce shark catches beginning in 2012.

2011: The Chilean National Congress passed legislation prohibiting shark finning, requiring that shark catches that land ashore must have their fins naturally attached to the bodies.

2011: Washington’s governor signed SB 5688, which prohibits people from selling, trading or distributing shark fins or derivative products including cartilage supplements.

2011: Guam’s governor signed into law Bill 44-31, which prohibits any person from possessing, selling or distributing shark fins in Guam.

2011: Oregon passed HB 2838, which prohibits people from possessing, selling, trading or distributing shark fins.

2011: The Bahamas government declared its national waters a shark sanctuary, banning all commercial shark fishing.

2011: Honduras announced a permanent shark sanctuary in its national waters.

2011: The government of Costa Rica held a shark finning side event at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries meeting to present the video from the September 2010 workshop and hold a panel discussion on the fins-attached method of banning shark finning.

2011: The U.S. Shark Conservation Act, which strengthens the U.S. finning ban by closing loopholes in the 2000 ban, was passed.

2010: A law prohibiting the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins and shark fin products was enacted in Hawaii.

2010: An EU Written Declaration on shark finning received the highest number of signatures out of all Written Declarations in 2010. Its adoption was followed by a European Parliamentary Resolution urging the Commission to produce a legislative proposal supporting a ban on removal of shark fins at sea.

2010: Proposals were put forward at both the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to strengthen shark finning bans by requiring that sharks be landed whole, but both failed to gain consensus and were not adopted.

2010: ICCAT prohibited retention of oceanic whitetip sharks, limited catches of most species of hammerhead shark to local catches by coastal communities for domestic consumption, and required that catch data be provided by any country that catches shortfin mako sharks.

2010: Costa Rica hosted a regional capacity building workshop on landing sharks with fins naturally attached to help end shark finning.

2010: The United Nations (UN) Fish Stocks Agreement urged that countries strengthen finning bans and consider requiring that sharks be landed whole, with fins attached.

2010: A record number of eight species of shark, including oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, hammerhead and spiny dogfish, were proposed for but failed to gain protection from international trade at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

2010: The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) established a non-binding global instrument on shark conservation.

2009: At the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting, Costa Rica—with support from other Latin American countries—called for a workshop to facilitate the adoption of the “fins-attached” method for banning shark finning.

2009: ICCAT became the first international fisheries management body to adopt shark fishing regulations by banning the retention of bigeye thresher sharks; however, a proposal to land sharks with fins attached was rejected.

2008: CMS added shortfin and longfin mako sharks, porbeagle sharks and the northern hemisphere population of spiny dogfish sharks to its Appendix II list of protected species.

2007: The UN General Assembly recommended that countries strengthen shark finning bans and consider requiring that sharks be landed with fins attached, the most effective method of ending the cruel practice of shark finning (which also helps to reduce the amount of sharks killed by commercial fisheries).

How you can help 

While we are lobbying for stronger international regulations, you can do your part as a citizen and a consumer:

  • Never consume shark fin soup. Sign our No Shark Fin pledge.
  • Avoid all shark meat, including fish and chips, which is often made with dogfish shark meat.
  • Avoid products made with ingredients that come from sharks such as shark liver oil and shark cartilage.
  • Avoid consuming fish such as tuna and swordfish, which are caught using methods that have high bycatch of sharks and other species.
  • Urge your government to adopt and promote domestic and international measures to protect sharks, especially “fins-attached” shark finning bans.
  • See a list of more you can do.

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