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Where We've Been

How to Read the Map

Our map shows the results of baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) surveys on reefs in 58 nations and territories around the world. View the percent of BRUVS at which at least one shark was sighted, the diversity of sharks seen on all BRUVS, and the diversity of rays observed. Results are presented at the nation level and are similar to those in our global analysis published in Nature. Note that the percent of BRUVS with least one shark shown in the map is a simplification of the metric used in the published analysis.

National Information

Each nation is represented by a circle. The color and arrow in the circle depict whether the metric of interest is "above average" (green/up arrow), "average" (gray/straight line) or "below average" (red/down arrow) compared to the other nations in the same region. For the % of BRUVS with sharks metric, "average" is defined as + or - 5% of regional average. The regions are Western Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Western Pacific and Central Pacific.

Click on the circle for more information about that nation and our results. You can also get more information on which key conservation measures, if any, have been implemented in the nation. You can filter the global map to show nations that have implemented each of these key conservation measures:

 Marine Protected Area(s): Locations in which all fishing is prohibited. We highlight nations that have implemented Marine Protected Areas on reef areas within their national jurisdiction.

 Shark sanctuaries: Nations that banned all targeted catch and trade of sharks prior to our sampling efforts. Samoa and the Dominican Republic became sanctuaries after we sampled reefs there.

 Domestic shark regulations: In our global analysis, we found that restrictions imposed on fishers that limited how many sharks they could catch per day, trip, season or year (“catch limits”) and bans on two particularly destructive fishing gear types (gillnets/longlines) had significant positive effects on reef sharks. Nations that have implemented one or both of these measures nationally or over large parts of their reef areas are highlighted in our map. Some nations (not highlighted) have implemented these measures on a small scale (i.e., on a few reefs within their jurisdiction).

Key Areas

We've surveyed 371 reefs in four key geographic regions: the Western Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, the Coral Triangle and the Pacific Ocean. Each reef was sampled with 50 individual BRUVS deployments which provide information on marine species.

Reservoirs of Hope

One of the starkest findings of Global FinPrint is that sharks were not detected on around 20 percent of surveyed reefs and reef shark populations are depleted in most nations around the world. Yet our global analyses also indicate that there remain several areas where sharks are still relatively common. These "reservoirs of hope" are places where sharks could spread out from to repopulate other areas if given the chance.

Some of these are inaccessible locations where fishing pressure is extremely low and could be the last reefs on the planet to still harbor pristine densities of sharks (for example, the Northern Great Barrier Reef). Other locations are places where people and sharks live alongside each other, but the humans have adopted conservation measures that are keeping shark populations relatively healthy.

Shark Sanctuaries

A growing number of nations have decided to ban shark fishing. In some cases this is because the local people have a strong cultural connection with sharks, while in others it is because shark dive tourism is a much larger industry than shark fishing. These nations, some of which call themselves “Shark Sanctuaries,” had some of the highest numbers of sharks in our surveys.

From the Bahamas in the Western Atlantic, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and Palau, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and several others in the Central Pacific, our global analysis showed that Shark Sanctuaries are globally important areas for sharks.

Shark Fisheries Management

Although national shark bans are a potentially effective approach in a few places, they are less likely to be adopted or effective if there is an established shark fishing industry; if sharks are often taken accidentally as bycatch, or if many shark fishers would lose their livelihood if a ban were implemented. Many people around the world rely on fishing, and there are very few alternative livelihoods that they can be employed in.

Regulation of shark fishing activities to ensure catches are sustainable could be the most realistic strategy in these nations. Our global analyses showed that nations could adopt catch limits or place restrictions on particularly effective shark fishing gear such as gillnets and longlines in order to enhance shark populations.

No-Take Marine Protected Areas

Closing certain areas to all forms of fishing is a common approach to marine ecosystem conservation. Several Global FinPrint studies have shown that these no-take Marine Protected Areas are a potentially effective tool for conserving some species of reef sharks. Reef sharks increased within 8 years of enforcement of a closed area (Ashmore Reef) in the Indian Ocean.

Members of our team combined BRUVS surveys with tracking data to show that no-take Marine Protected Areas need to be from 10 to 50 kilometers long to effectively protect the most common reef shark species. Our global analysis demonstrated that reefs within no-take Marine Protected Areas had more sharks than open areas, especially if these areas were very large.

Conservation Potential

Our global analyses identified several nations with high reef shark conservation potential, including Indonesia, Madagascar, Barbados and Fiji. These nations exhibited some degradation of reef shark populations and a lack of conservation measures. We estimated that a strong recovery of reef shark populations remains a possibility in these nations if they were to invest in shark fisheries management, large no-take Marine Protected Areas, or if they became Shark Sanctuaries. We are working with partners in many of these nations to engage with local governments and communities in order to explore these possibilities.


Museum Exhibits

Through interactive exhibits, we bring the excitement of ocean exploration to all. Visit our three interactive exhibits in museums across the United States.