Shark and Ray

Conservation Status

CITES: Appendix II, 8 shark species


State of the Species

Sharks play a vital role in top-down maintenance of ocean ecosystems around the world. Similarly, rays and skates play important roles in ocean health. Globally, shark and ray species are threatened with extinction largely due to overfishing (targeted and bycatch) and other unsustainable practices. An assessment of species diversity and abundance has shown that the highest number of data deficient species is located in the Indo-Pacific and Mediterranean regions. 

AZA Member Activity

Between 2010-2014, AZA accredited zoos and aquariums spent more than $2.1 million on shark and ray field conservation. Learn more about this and other efforts undertaken by AZA member institutions, by visiting AZA's Conservation and Research Database.

Despite the tremendous efforts AZA members and partners have committed toward saving sharks and rays, these species are still declining at an alarming rate and there is a clear need to approach conservation differently.  AZA SAFE provides a new approach for collaborative conservation.  Using a One Plan approach,  conservationists working to save species or taxa work together to identify and prioritize the conservation needs of a species and then develops a 3-year Conservation Action Plan (CAP).  Each AZA SAFE Conservation Action Plan includes specific projects, goals, and actions that will address the needs of each species.

Learn more about the individual projects that comprise the AZA SAFE Shark and Ray Conservation Action Plan.

AZA Animal Program Leaders

Marine Fishes TAG Chair: Beth Firchau, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Marine Fishes TAG Vice Chair:
  Paula Carlson, The Dallas World Aquarium
Marine Fishes TAG Secretary:
Becky Ellsworth, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Program Leaders for Shark and Ray SPPs:

  • Zebra Sharks: Lise Watson, John G. Shedd Aquarium
  • Sandtiger Sharks: Chris Schreiber, Georgia Aquarium
  • Spotted Eagle Ray: Jim Kinsler, SeaWorld Orlando
  • Sawfishes: Stacia White, Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach
  • Freshwater Rays (program under Freshwater Fish TAG): Erica Hornbrook, John G. Shedd Aquarium



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