Seattle University Law School, Seattle Journal for Environmental Law SJEL, Environmental Law, Shark, Genetic Studies, Conservation


Shark populations throughout the world are at grave risk; some spe-cies have declined by 95 percent. The most recent IUCN (Interna-tional Union for the Conservation of Nature) assessment by the Shark Specialist Group (SSG) found that one-fourth of shark and ray spe-cies face the prospect of extinction. This article proposes an engage-ment plan to accelerate efforts by states and international organiza-tions to conserve and protect sharks worldwide. Sharks are found throughout all of the world’s oceans, and collec-tively they occupy an indispensable niche as apex predators at the top of the ocean trophic ecosystem. These fish function as an im-portant part of the system of checks and balances in the seas, helping maintain the delicate equilibrium among species. As a result of an-thropogenic activities, however, sharks face intense pressure to sur-vive. Overfishing, finning, and bycatch pose the greatest threats. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)1 adopted a Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MoU) in 2010. This group seeks to specifically focus on seven shark populations that migrate globally, posing unique challenges for protection. As the apex pred-ators of the oceans, sharks consume high levels of biomass to support their populations. As a result, their populations are relatively small and, therefore, even minor disturbances to their populations radiate and can have profound impacts. This creates a potential tragedy of the commons situation: as populations are decimated in certain areas of the globe, it impacts other regions and leaves fewer resources for everyone. The CMS Shark MoU seeks to protect seven specific spe-cies that would be served by a global group of signatories, which are countries that sign an agreement to work together to enforce policies that will aid population recovery. The signatory states first met in 2012, and there are significant challenges to overcome if the MoU is to serve as an effective instrument for the protection of sharks. This article proposes an engagement plan to accelerate these efforts to fashion a sustainable shark protection regime.