Directed conservation of the world’s reef sharks and rays

Jordan S. Goetze, Michael R. Heithaus, M. Aaron MacNeil, Euan Harvey, Colin A. Simpfendorfer, Michelle R. Heupel, Mark Meekan, Shaun Wilson, Mark E. Bond, Conrad W. Speed, Leanne M. Currey-Randall, Rebecca Fisher, C. Samantha Sherman, Jeremy J. Kiszka, Matthew J. Rees, Vinay Udyawer, Kathryn I. Flowers, Gina M. Clementi, Jacob Asher, Océane BeaufortAnthony T.F. Bernard, Michael L. Berumen, Stacy L. Bierwagen, Tracey Boslogo, Edward J. Brooks, J. Jed Brown, Dayne Buddo, Camila Cáceres, Sara Casareto, Venkatesh Charloo, Joshua E. Cinner, Eric E.G. Clua, Jesse E.M. Cochran, Neil Cook, Brooke M. D’Alberto, Martin de Graaf, Mareike C. Dornhege-Lazaroff, Lanya Fanovich, Naomi F. Farabaugh, Daniel Fernando, Carlos Eduardo Leite Ferreira, Candace Y.A. Fields, Anna L. Flam, Camilla Floros, Virginia Fourqurean, Laura García Barcia, Ricardo Garla, Kirk Gastrich, Lachlan George, Rory Graham, Valerie Hagan, Royale S. Hardenstine, Stephen M. Heck, Patricia Heithaus, Aaron C. Henderson, Heidi Hertler, Robert E. Hueter, Mohini Johnson, Stacy D. Jupiter, Muslimin Kaimuddin, Devanshi Kasana, Megan Kelley, Steven T. Kessel, Benedict Kiilu, Fabian Kyne, Tim Langlois, Jaedon Lawe, Elodie J.I. Lédée, Steve Lindfield, Jade Q. Maggs, B. Mabel Manjaji-Matsumoto, Andrea Marshall, Philip Matich, Erin McCombs, Dianne McLean, Llewelyn Meggs, Stephen Moore, Sushmita Mukherji, Ryan Murray, Stephen J. Newman, Owen R. O’Shea, Kennedy E. Osuka, Yannis P. Papastamatiou, Nishan Perera, Bradley J. Peterson, Fabián Pina-Amargós, Alessandro Ponzo, Andhika Prasetyo, L. M.Sjamsul Quamar, Jessica R. Quinlan, Christelle F. Razafindrakoto, Fernanda A. Rolim, Alexei Ruiz-Abierno, Hector Ruiz, Melita A. Samoilys, Enric Sala, William R. Sample, Michelle Schärer-Umpierre, Sara N. Schoen, Audrey M. Schlaff, Adam N.H. Smith, Lauren Sparks, Twan Stoffers, Akshay Tanna, Rubén Torres, Michael J. Travers, Jasmine Valentin-Albanese, Joseph D. Warren, Alexandra M. Watts, Colin K. Wen, Elizabeth R. Whitman, Aaron J. Wirsing, Esteban Zarza-González, Demian D. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Many shark populations are in decline around the world, with severe ecological and economic consequences. Fisheries management and marine protected areas (MPAs) have both been heralded as solutions. However, the effectiveness of MPAs alone is questionable, particularly for globally threatened sharks and rays (‘elasmobranchs’), with little known about how fisheries management and MPAs interact to conserve these species. Here we use a dedicated global survey of coral reef elasmobranchs to assess 66 fully protected areas embedded within a range of fisheries management regimes across 36 countries. We show that conservation benefits were primarily for reef-associated sharks, which were twice as abundant in fully protected areas compared with areas open to fishing. Conservation benefits were greatest in large protected areas that incorporate distinct reefs. However, the same benefits were not evident for rays or wide-ranging sharks that are both economically and ecologically important while also threatened with extinction. We show that conservation benefits from fully protected areas are close to doubled when embedded within areas of effective fisheries management, highlighting the importance of a mixed management approach of both effective fisheries management and well-designed fully protected areas to conserve tropical elasmobranch assemblages globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1118-1128
Number of pages11
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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