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Many sharks edging towards extinction

04/06/2008 10:03:38

June 2008. The first study to determine the global status of 21 species of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays reveals that 11 of them are threatened with extinction, says IUCN on International Biodiversity Day.

The international study, published in the latest edition of Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, shows serious overfishing is to blame and recommends key steps that governments can take to safeguard the sharks and rays.

Organized by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG), the study was conducted by 15 scientists from 13 different research institutes around the world, with additional contributions from scores of other SSG members.

 

The group's specific recommendations for governments address the need to:

  •  Establish and enforce science-based catch limits for sharks and rays
  • Ensure an end to shark finning (removing fins and discarding bodies at sea)
  • Improve the monitoring of fisheries taking sharks and rays
  • Invest in shark and ray research and population assessment
  • Minimize incidental catch (‘bycatch') of sharks and rays
  • Cooperate with other countries to conserve shared populations.

Thresher, Mako and Silky sharks endangered

The experts found that the sharks and rays, including the Thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus), the Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) and the Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) are at risk of extinction due to targeted fishing for valuable fins and meat, as well as indirect bycatch in other fisheries. In most cases, these catches are unregulated and unsustainable.

"The traditional view of oceanic sharks and rays as fast and powerful too often leads to a misperception that they are resilient to fishing pressure," says Sonja Fordham, co-author of the paper and Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group (SSG). "Despite mounting evidence of decline and increasing threats to these species, there are no international catch limits for oceanic sharks. Our research shows that action is urgently needed on a global level if these fisheries are to be sustainable."

Shark fin soup

The increasing demand for the delicacy ‘shark fin soup', driven by rapidly growing Asian economies, means that often the valuable shark fins are retained and the carcasses discarded. Frequently, discarded sharks and rays are not even recorded. Sharks and rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing due to their tendency to take many years to become sexually mature and have relatively few offspring.

"Fishery managers and regional, national and international officials have a real obligation to improve this situation," says lead author Nicholas Dulvy, who is based at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. "We are losing species at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than historic extinction rates. Humans are making increasing use of ocean resources so many more aquatic species, particularly sharks, are coming under threat. But it doesn't have to be like this. With sufficient public support and resulting political will, we can turn the tide."

Table of ocean pelagic sharks and their global IUCN Red List status
NB: Assessments marked with an asterisk (*) below have been submitted and accepted for inclusion in the 2008 IUCN Red List.

Family

Species

English common name

Global IUCN Red List status*

Year of assessment

Rhincodontidae

Rhincodon typus

Whale shark

Vulnerable A1bd+2d

2000

Odontaspididae

Odontaspis noronhai

Bigeye sand tiger

Data Deficient

2000

Pseudocarchariidae

Pseudocarcharias kamoharai

Crocodile shark

Near Threatened

2000

Megachasmidae

Megachasma pelagios

Megamouth shark

Data Deficient

2000

Alopiidae

Alopias pelagicus

Pelagic thresher

*Vulnerable A2d+4d

2008

Alopiidae

Alopias superciliosus

Bigeye thresher

*Vulnerable A2bd

2008

Alopiidae

Alopias vulpinus

Thresher shark

*Vulnerable A2bd+3bd+4bd

2008

Cetorhinidae

Cetorhinus maximus

Basking shark

Vulnerable A1ad+2d

2000

Lamnidae

Carcharodon carcharias

Great white shark

Vulnerable A1cd+2cd

2000

Lamnidae 

Isurus oxyrinchus

Shortfin mako

*Vulnerable A2abd+3bd+4ad

2008

Lamnidae 

Isurus paucus

Longfin mako

Vulnerable A2bd+3d+4bd

2005

Lamnidae 

Lamna ditropis

Salmon shark

*Least Concern

2008

Lamnidae 

Lamna nasus

Porbeagle shark

Vulnerable A2bd+3d+4bd

2006

Carcharhinidae

Carcharhinus falciformis

Silky shark

*Near Threatened

2008

Carcharhinidae 

Carcharhinus longimanus

Oceanic whitetip shark

Vulnerable A2ad+3d+4ad

2006

Carcharhinidae 

Prionace glauca

Blue shark

Near Threatened

2000

Dasyatidae

Pteroplatytrygon violacea

Pelagic stingray

*Least Concern

2008

Mobulidae

Manta birostris

Manta ray

Near Threatened

2006

Mobulidae

Mobula japanica

Spinetail devilray

Near Threatened

2005

Mobulidae

Mobula mobular

Giant devilray

Endangered A4d

2006

Mobulidae

Mobula tarapacana

Chilean devilray

Data Deficient

2006

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