30% of World’s Sharks Threatened With Extinction

In a new assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it has been estimated that over 30 percent of the world’s sharks are threatened with extinction.

According to a report by BBC News, the Red list gives the status of 64 types of shark and ray, over 30 percent of which face the danger of extinction.

The authors of the assessment classified a further 24 percent of the examined species as Near Threatened.

This is the first time that IUCN Red List criteria, considered the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of plants and animals, have been used to classify open ocean, or pelagic, sharks and rays. The list is part of an ongoing international scientific project to monitor the animals.

The authors, IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group, said that a main cause of the drop in population of sharks is overfishing.

According to the researchers, sharks are “profoundly vulnerable” to overfishing. This is principally because many species take several years to mature and have relatively few young.

“(But) despite mounting threats, sharks remain virtually unprotected on the high seas,” said Sonja Fordham, deputy chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and one of the editors of the report.

“We have documented serious overfishing of these species, in national and international waters. This demonstrates a clear need for immediate action on a global scale,” she added.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recognized the potential threat to sharks over a decade ago, when it launched its “International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks” in 1999.

But, the “requested improvements fisheries data from member states have been painfully slow and simply inadequate,” according to this report by the IUCN.

Many pelagic sharks are caught in high seas tuna and swordfish fisheries.

Although some are accidentally caught in nets meant for these other fish, they are increasingly targeted for their meat, teeth and liver oil, and because of high demand, particularly in Asia, for their fins.

“The hammerheads are special because they have very high quality fins but quite low quality meat,” explained Fordham. “They often fall victim to finning,” she said.

Species listed as ‘Vulnerable’ included the smooth hammerhead shark, the porbeagle shark and the common, bigeye and pelagic thresher sharks.

By the end of this year, the Shark Specialist Group will publish a complete report, outlining the status of all 400 species of shark, and closely-related skates and rays.

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