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A group of sharks swims near the Galápagos Islands. Twenty-seven species of sharks and rays (fishes closely related to sharks) have been recorded around the Galápagos islands.

Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing. Over 100 million sharks and related species (skates and rays) are killed each year, according to the International Shark Campaign. Because sharks mature slowly and only have a few young at a time, it takes a long time for a shark population to recover. They also often have very particular requirements about what kinds of habitats they breed in (usually coastal waters), making it hard for them to cope with human intrusion into their breeding grounds.

National and international regulation of shark fishing is weak, and poaching is common. So far, only two countries—the United States and Australia—have submitted National Plans of Action for Sharks to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, though all member countries were asked to do so in 1998.

Photograph by Stephen Frink/CORBIS

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