More sharks also have international trade protections now, including the great white. Two recent studies show that great white populations are increasing off U.S. coasts. And 10 countries have set up shark sanctuaries where commercial shark fishing is banned, creating 5 million square miles of ocean as safe havens for sharks.
Of course, we have a long way to go. The sheer number of sharks taken from the ocean is threatening the health of marine ecosystems; because sharks are slow-growing, late to mature, and bear few young, they cannot quickly replenish their populations and fulfill their vital role at the top of food webs. And while finning has been reduced, some fishermen are now skirting the requirement that sharks be brought to port with fins attached by "spining": They leave fins attached to the spine but strip off all the meat and dump it overboard, still making room on board for more sharks.
Meanwhile in the United States, which took a leadership role in banning finning, 11 forward-thinking states and territories, including New York, Illinois, California, and Guam, have gone even further and banned the sale and trade of shark products. Yet these states and territories are fighting to keep their regulations, because the federal government says they interfere with U.S. fishing laws. That stance is a step backward for shark conservation.