Sharks at unprecedented risk of extinction after 71 per cent decline



The oceanic white-tip shark

Martin Strmiska / Alamy

Numbers of oceanic sharks and rays have declined at what researchers describe as an “alarming” 71 per cent over virtually half a century, resulting in what researchers say is an unprecedented enhance in risk of extinction.

(*71*) have been warning for years in regards to the unsustainable killing of the apex predators, based mostly on regional stories and knowledge on particular person species, however a paper printed as we speak is the primary to supply an authoritative international overview.

It focuses on oceanic sharks and rays – those who dwell in open seas somewhat than in shallow coastal waters – and divulges that shark finning and fishing worldwide have pushed a decline in numbers of at least 71 per cent between 1970 and 2018. Prior analysis has proven that coastal shark populations are declining too. “Policy-makers can no longer ignore the plight of sharks and rays,” says Nathan Pacoureau at Simon Fraser University, Canada, who labored on the research.


The estimate drew from new knowledge on all 31 oceanic shark and ray species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and 18 on the Living Planet Index, together with data on fish catches and markets. Pacoureau and his colleagues discovered the declines first hit the most important species, earlier than being inflicted on progressively smaller ones over time.

The international common masks even worse declines for some areas and species. “The Indian Ocean is the worst ocean. There is almost no [fisheries] management at all,” says Pacoureau.

The oceanic white-tip (Carcharhinus longimanus), as soon as the most typical shark in tropical waters, is now critically endangered, the final step earlier than extinction within the wild. The easy hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena) is the one species with rising numbers.

“Such steep declines are shocking even to experts, especially when compared to land animal statistics,” says Sonja Fordham at the Shark Trust, a UK-based non-profit. She notes that whereas the shark and ray knowledge within the evaluation is the very best accessible, there are gaps for some species over time.

Worryingly, the decline is more likely to be an underestimate of actuality as a result of of unreported fish catches. Pacoureau factors out that past the significance of preserving sharks and rays for their very own sake, they’re at the highest of the marine meals internet so are “very important for ecosystems and economies”.

Sharks and rays aren’t doomed but. “There are still solutions and hopes,” says Pacoureau, who desires to see outright fishing bans for essentially the most endangered species and catch limits for others, akin to these for tuna, however higher aligned with scientific proof.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03173-9

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