In our ongoing series detailing the 4 areas of concern for the world’s oceans in our lookbook, and the 1% for the Planet partners we’re supporting in an effort to address them, today we’re taking a closer look at the topic Sharks are Slaughtered.
Shark Stewards is a Bay-Area-based nonprofit focused on overfishing and the horrifying practices of the fin trade. Through a mix of advocacy, research, ecosystem protection efforts, and educational outreach, Shark Stewards works to ban fin sales (both in the US and abroad), create shark sanctuaries, monitor fishing practices, and promote safe ecotourism as an alternative coastal livelihood. Its campaigns have helped convince governments, fisheries, and even cargo companies to take measures to disrupt the systems that sustain fin markets, and these are combined with (and informed by) hands-on research focusing on the sharks that live in and around San Francisco Bay. We caught up with David McGuire, Shark Stewards’ Director and founder, for more information.
When was Shark Stewards founded, and what is its primary mission?
Shark Stewards was founded in 2006, and its mission is to restore ocean health by saving sharks from overfishing and the fin trade, as well as preserving critical habitats through the establishment of protected areas and shark sanctuaries. We do this both through our educational initiatives and by advocating for policy changes based on marine science.
What was the catalyst for creating this organization?
Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, helping shape and maintain the health and balance of marine species in ocean ecosystems. They’ve survived the earth’s five great extinction events, including the most recent, which wiped out the dinosaurs. Throughout this unimaginable span of time, Sharks have been the ocean’s top predators. But now, suddenly, they’ve lost that spot to killer whales. Shark Stewards was created to address this dangerous development in the natural order of the oceans.
What is the greatest threat that sharks face today?
Overfishing and finning kill off sharks at an alarmingly unsustainable rate. The demand for shark fin soup (a profitable luxury item in Asia), combined with unregulated, poorly managed, or outright illegal fishing practices, have sent shark populations plummeting worldwide. Several species are threatened, and many of them could go extinct within our lifetime.
How is Shark Stewards addressing these issues?
We’ve been able to help pass legislation banning shark fin sales in several US states. We started with California, which was the most significant shark fin ban by volume, and now have laws on the books in 13 states. The most recent is New Jersey, which just passed its statute in 2020.
Although we’re based in San Francisco, we work in Asia 3 months out of the year. Our focus is reducing shark fin and other wildlife trade in China, and creating shark sanctuaries in Indonesia and Malaysia.
What's next on the horizon for Shark Stewards?
We’ve started a chapter in Shenzhen, China, a city of over 10 million that consumes the most exotic wildlife and seafood in the world. We’re in the process of creating an ocean education and advocacy effort with local youth for 2020.
Learn more about Shark Stewards: sharkstewards.org