How you can help protect sharks – and what doesn't work

Sharks are some of the most ecologically important and most threatened animals on Earth. Recent reports show that up to one-third of all known species of sharks and their relatives, rays, are threatened with extinction. Unsustainable overfishing is the biggest threat by far.

Losing sharks can disrupt coastal food webs that billions of people depend on for food. When food chains lose their top predators, the rest can unravel as smaller prey species multiply.

In my years of talking with the public about sharks and ocean conservation, I’ve found that many people care about sharks and want to help but don’t know how. The solutions can be quite technical, and it’s challenging to understand and appreciate the scale and scope of some of the threats.

At the same time, there is an enormous amount of oversimplification and even misinformation about these important topics, which can lead well-intentioned people to support policies that experts know won’t work.

I am a marine conservation biologist and have sought to improve this situation by surveying shark researchers and helping scientists identify research topics that can advance conservation. I’ve also written a book, “Why Sharks Matter: A Deep Dive With the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator.” Here are three ways that anyone can make a difference for sharks and avoid taking steps that are ineffective or even harmful.