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A global effort to conserve sharks and rays must include not only actions to prevent extinctions of the most threatened species, but also investigation of the status and conservation needs of poorly known species, and ongoing progress made in conserving all species.

2025  Goal:

Declines of the most endangered shark and ray species have been halted, and the conservation status of Data Deficient species is understood.

Priority Species 

Critically Endangered and Endangered Species.

Immediate-term actions focus on four of the most severely threatened families that each incorporate several endangered species:
  • Sawfishes (Family Pristidae)

  • Angel sharks (Family Squatinidae)

  • Guitarfishes (Family Rhinobatidae)

  • Wedgefishes (Family Rhyncobatidae)

Of the species in these families 49% are threatened due to un-monitored and largely un-managed inshore coastal fisheries in both temperate and tropical countries. Many of them are taken as secondary catch and are valued for domestic and international markets.

To prevent their extinction, these species require extremely focused and active interventions, including:

  • stringent fishing prohibitions,

  • intensive bycatch minimization, and

  • specific habitat protections.

Freshwater Species 

This group includes the 32 Critically Endangered, Endangered and Data Deficient sharks and rays which are only found in freshwater


  • 4 Glyphis river sharks

  • 28 stingrays or whiprays, 19 of which (the Family Potamotrygonidae) live in the rivers of northern South America.

The threats facing these species include fisheries-related mortality and habitat loss, as well as, for some species, collection for the aquarium trade.

Data Deficient and Newly Discovered Species

More than 45% of shark and ray species are currently classified as Data Deficient (meaning that information is insufficient to assess the level of threat).


Many of these species – the “lost” sharks and rays – have not been seen for decades and may already be extinct. Data Deficient species need targeted field research and data analysis, not only covering their distribution, populations and ecology, but also the impact of fishing and other pressures. In addition, each year, approximately 12 new shark and ray species are discovered, many of which are vulnerable to overexploitation.

Plan of Action

Interventions are grouped around three components:

  • Ensuring strict national protection for endangered species;

  • Ensuring that multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and marine protected areas (MPAs) effectively address the species that fall under their remit and generate positive outcomes for shark and ray species more generally; and

  • Gathering and analyzing data.


Each of these components includes multiple species and interconnected national and regional level activities and targets, all aimed at meeting the 2025 Saving Species Goal.

Selected activities

  • Supporting the development of regional sawfish conservation networks.

  • Producing a field and trade identification guide to guitarfishes and wedgefishes.

  • Supporting effective implementation of CITES and CMS.

  • Conducting a meta-analysis to determine which species are most likely to benefit from MPAs, and which current MPAs can be tailored to improve shark and ray protection.

  • Collecting and analyzing data on Data Deficient species to support IUCN Red List reassessments.

  • Developing Living Planet and Red List indices for sharks and rays for use in reporting on Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi and Sustainable Development Goals targets.

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