When it comes to alarming updates about the oceans' top predators (or scientifically questionable TV programming) Shark Week can be a tough time for us all. That's why we're dedicating today to delivering a healthy dose of good news – we all need some to sustain us every now and again. So here's our Tuesday Top 10 list of the year's positive shark stories.    

Shark fin soup off the menu 

Shark Fin Soup 2014 08 12
Conservation group WildAid says prices and sales of shark fin soup are falling by 50-70%. Image: Reuters

Conservation group WildAid brought us some great news earlier this month: China seems to be finally losing its appetite for shark fin soup. Considered a delicacy, the broth has been known to sell for up to $2,000 a bowl. But now, increased environmental awareness among Chinese consumers combined with government action (it recently banned the dish at official government banquets) are helping to cut demand – according to WildAid, prices and sales are falling by 50-70%. This is really good news for sharks: of the estimated 100 million sharks killed annually worldwide, between 26 million and 76 million are used for shark fin soup, some studies say. See WildAid’s full report here.

Shark numbers on the up

Back in June, results from research conducted on shark numbers off the California coast brought us some good news: great white sharks in the area are much more abundant than previously thought. Some 2,400 of the predators are now patrolling these waters, and the health and size of the populations is increasing, leading the study’s researchers to call for existing shark protections to be maintained to ensure that this positive trend persists. More recently, reports surfaced this month that the waters around New York City seem to be teeming with both great whites and humpback whales this summer. And while that might make for some nervous swimmers, it’s making environmentalists very happy. It’s believed that cleaner waters are responsible for the surge in sightings.  

A marine haven to rule them all 

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama announced plans for the largest protected area on the planet (on land or sea): a massive marine sanctuary covering up to two million square kilometres of Pacific Ocean. The protected area would be created by significantly expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the central Pacific – and fishing, energy exploration and other potentially harmful activities would not be permitted. Great news for both sharks and countless other marine species, the proposal (which would also double the ocean area that is fully protected worldwide!), is currently in its comment period. 

Endangered listing for hammerheads

Scalloped Hammerhead 2014 08 12
An endangered listing for certain populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks could help them bounce back. Image: Barry Peters, Wikimedia Commons

A endangered listing might not seem like good news, but for some populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks, a listing under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) – one of the world’s strongest wildlife conservation laws – could be a step towards bringing the animals back from the brink. The National Marine Fisheries Service recently listed four populations as threatened or endangered in response to alarming population declines. ESA listings have helped other species in the past, so there is good reason to hope that they will make a difference in this case as well. More on the listing.

UAE restricts shark fishing

Sharks in UAE (United Arab Emirates) waters will soon be benefiting from increased protections announced by the country's Minister of Environment and Water last month. The new rules, effective from the start of September, are designed to crack down on the fishing of sharks for their fins only. They also bring UAE laws more into line with CITES regulations and outline new guidelines for fishing equipment, and the import and export of sharks and shark products.

Airlines say no to fins 

Following an online petition from a high school student, Thai Airways agreed to stop all transportation of shark fins on its planes last month. Considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia, demand for the highly prized fins results in the slaughter of thousands of sharks every year. "Thai Airways places great importance in protecting endangered species and the environment," said the managing director of the airline's cargo division. The announcement follows similar commitments from Singapore Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Shark nets go high-tech

Shark nets may be good for protecting beach goers and bathers, but they can be deadly traps for sharks and other marine animals. To tackle the problem, South African researchers have been looking at more high-tech solutions. The country's KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board is working on developing an electrical shark repellent to keep the potentially dangerous predators away from the coastline. Locally, as many as 570 sharks a year currently wind up in nets and not very many of them are released alive. The eco-friendly barriers aim to use electrical pulses to deter sharks without causing them any harm.

Massachusetts bans fins

Massachusetts was the filming location for much of the 'monster' hit Jaws … a movie that's given great whites a pretty bad rep (much to the regret of the author of the book on which the movie was based). But the state is now showing its concern for these ocean predators, recently becoming the ninth to ban the trade in sharks fins. Although it's already illegal to remove a shark's fin in the US, some restaurants still serve soup made from imported shark fins. The new ruling means that culprits caught selling shark fin products could face a hefty fine as well as up to 60 days in jail.

Palau waters protected

A ban on commercial fishing will turn Palau's pristine waters into a fully protected marine reserve. Image: LuxTonnerre, Flickr.

Concerned about reckless and destructive fishing practices in Palau, the president of the island nation took a pretty bold step earlier this year: a ban on all commercial fishing. The decision will effectively turn the 200 nautical miles surrounding the island – known for the astounding biodiversity of its waters – into a fully protected marine reserve. Remengesau stated: "Palau's economic potential lies in tourism, not tuna." Hats off, President Remengesau! The sharks approve. 

Bye bye driftnets 

It's been a topic of conservation controversy for over twenty years, but as of January 1st 2015, driftnets will be completely banned in all EU waters. This cost-effective fishing technique involves using a vertically hanging net to trap huge numbers of fish species living in the water column … this includes millions of tons of bycatch (non-target marine species, like sharks, that perish in the nets and are normally just thrown overboard). Although drift net regulations have existed for some time, the new legislation closes all loopholes and aims to eradicate the ecologically damaging practice altogether.