Major Shark Conservation Victory Celebrated With Remarkable Photos

By Monica Medina and Photos by Brian Skerry

This week, the nations of the world gathered at the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and took a major step forward in protecting 18 species of sharks and rays, including mako sharks, wedgefishes, and guitarfishes.

The BBC noted that makos have been overfished for decades on the high seas, where only limited regulation and lax enforcement have led to significant population declines.

More than 50 of the 183 nations attending the meeting co-sponsored the proposal (a record number) that Mexico introduced — and eventually, more than 100 nations voted in favor of it.

  • Now special findings and permits will be needed in any country where these species are sold — a significant deterrent to their sale.

In prior CITES COP meetings, shark protection measures were hotly debated, and back in 2010, when I attended CITES and worked to pass such protections, they lost easily. I cannot overstate the significance of this week’s vote — in just ten years, shark protections have gained acceptance globally and the support has come from developed and developing nations in every region.  The only disappointment for me is that instead of being on the side shark protection (or leading the effort as we had in the past), the U.S. government opposed it.  Fortunately, other governments stepped up, and global environmental groups worked hard to gain support for the proposal.

To celebrate this remarkable achievement, National Geographic’s world-renowned photographer Brian Skerry has allowed us to share with you some of his amazing photos of mako sharks.  Can you imagine getting close enough to those teeth to take these pictures?  We want to thank Brian for his work on behalf of shark conservation and for allowing us to publish these images.  You can check out more of Brian’s amazing photos here, and we recommend you follow him on twitter (@brian_skerry), Instagram (@brianskerry) and on Facebook (click here).    Enjoy!

Shortfin Mako Sharks off the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand © 2017 Brian Skerry, All rights reserved.

Shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) off the coast of San Diego, California.  © 2017 Brian Skerry, All rights reserved.

Shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) off the coast of San Diego, California. This region is a pupping grounds for makos and in the summer and fall pups can be seen in these waters. The mako is one of the fastest fish in the sea, swimming in bursts of 55 mph. These animals are also endothermic, meaning that they can generate heat within their bodies. They are one of the top four species of predatory sharks. © 2017 Brian Skerry, All rights reserved.

Shortfin Mako Sharks off the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. © 2017 Brian Skerry, All rights reserved.

Shortfin Mako Sharks off the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. © 2017 Brian Skerry, All rights reserved.

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