Save Our Sharks: Using International Fisheries Law within Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to Improve Shark Conservation

Like many fish, sharks are facing unprecedented overfishing. They have been targeted both directly for their fins and caught accidentally (bycaught) in, for instance, tuna fisheries. This has led to collapsing stocks around the world. Overfishing has led to what has been termed a mass extinction among ocean species, and sharks are no exception-they are in fact especially vulnerable. As a result, many species of sharks are now listed on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This problem can only be tackled through coordinated, cooperative action by all states. This Note explores one avenue through which states can cooperate: Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, or RFMOs. Although RFMOs have many members, this Note will focus on the United States and the European Union. Both are major powers and participants in many of the world’s RFMOs, and both have the potential to strongly impact shark conservation. The United States is particularly relevant as it has jurisdiction over a larger area of the world’s oceans than any other nation, and thus can more effectively implement and complement the RFMOs’ ocean conservation efforts through domestic legislation. Because many sharks are highly migratory species and travel readily between national waters and the high seas, unilateral policy making can only be of limited effect; the United States, the European Union (E.U.), and every other nation must cooperate within RFMOs and other relevant international organizations to protect these species.