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Endangered Sharks of Galapagos

Scalloped hammerhead sharks in Galapagos
© Simon Pierce
Galapagos shark
© Jon Anderson


This is a critical time for sharks globally. They are facing increasing pressures from industrial fishing, habitat loss and plastic pollution. The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is unique in its high concentration of shark species. We are supporting research that will ensure protection for these vulnerable sharks throughout their lifetime.

Project Partners

Galapagos National Park MigraMar Galapagos Science Center Universidad San Francisco de Quito PACIFICO Area de Conservación Marina Cocos - Costa Rica

Endangered sharks in numbers

Illegal shark fishing in Galapagos

> 100 m

sharks harvested from our oceans globally every year by humans

Whale sharks in Galapagos


adult female whale sharks pass through north of Galapagos every year

White spotted eagle rays


species of sharks and rays rely upon Galapagos for refuge and habitat

Illegal shark fishing in Galapagos
© Galapagos National Park

The problem

Every year, globally, humans harvest 100 million individual sharks from our oceans. Endangered species, including the scalloped hammerhead, dusky and whale shark, face threats from overfishing and bycatch. Recent research has also shown that the ingestion of microplastics may threaten the health of whale sharks and other filter-feeding marine species such as manta rays. 

The GMR is home to the highest concentration of sharks in the world. It is a crucial location for Critically Endangered scalloped hammerheads and is one of the only places globally where large numbers still reside. Its whale shark population is also globally rare, with the vast majority mature females, as opposed to juvenile males found in other hotspots. Furthermore, of the females spotted in the GMR, over 90% appear to be pregnant, something that our partners are trying to determine for certain. When considering the lack of knowledge about whale shark reproductivity, it makes this unique population crucial to researching this species. Shallower waters in the GMR also provide important sites for blacktip shark pupping grounds and, in 2017, it was found that hammerhead sharks also have nursery sites in the GMR. These nursery grounds were designated in 2023 as one of the IUCN’s first Important Shark and Rays Areas (ISRAs), recognising their critical role in the lifecycle of a suite of threatened and poorly studied shark and ray species.

Many of the sharks found in the GMR are migratory, including whale and hammerhead sharks. Recent research has shown that some migratory sharks often move between the GMR and Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica. Once these sharks move outside of the protected waters of the GMR, they are extremely vulnerable to industrial fishing.

Whale Shark Scientist
© Simon Pierce

How we’re tackling it

As part of Galapagos Conservation Trust’s Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme, we are: 

  • Building upon the research already undertaken to improve our understanding of whale shark migratory movements, as well as other open ocean migratory species. 
  • Using this evidence to strengthen the case for ensuring that at least 30% of Ecuadorian waters are well protected.
  • Enhancing protections for shark nursery grounds within the GMR.
Whitetip reef shark in Galapagos
© Shutterstock / RLS Photo

Project goals

The project aims to: 

  • improve understanding of the nursery dynamics of sharks in the GMR 
  • improve understanding of migratory routes and regional connectivity 
  • support the creation of a protected ‘swimway’ between the GMR and Costa Rica’s Cocos Island to protect migratory species

This project is kindly supported by

Ocean Conservation Trust
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation
Galapagos shark
© Rolex / Franck Gazzola

Project updates

Sofia Green tagging a whale shark while free-diving
14th Oct 2022
Ocean protection

Tagging a new constellation of whale sharks

A first-hand account of the latest Galapagos Whale Shark Project expedition by Sofía Green.
Read more
Scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve
1st Sep 2022
Ocean protection Overfishing

Galapagos marine reserve expansion brings hope - but new management challenges

Highly productive waters support incredible marine biodiversity in Galapagos. The Galapagos marine reserve expansion brings hope for greater protection of this diversity but also new management challenges.
Read more
Diving with a whale shark in Galapagos
8th Jun 2022
Ocean protection

World Oceans Day 2022: Tagging Ocean Giants

World Oceans Day is held on 8 June every year to raise awareness of the vital importance of our oceans and their role in sustaining a healthy planet. By raising funds and awareness, Galapagos Conservation Trust is able to support and deliver projects...
Read more
View from the light aircraft from ‘Ecuador Bajo Mis Alas’ (Ecuador Under My Wings)
25th Apr 2022
Ocean protection

Scientists use ultra-light aircraft to tag and track whale sharks off the southern Galapagos islands for the first time

A multi-institutional team of scientists has recently concluded a ground-breaking research expedition to tag and track whale sharks, and other key migratory marine species, in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Read more

How you can help

Please help us conserve the endangered sharks of Galapagos by donating today or by adopting a hammerhead shark.

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