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300 endangered shark and ray species

New assessments published in recent days by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) show that as many as 316 species of cartilaginous fish, namely sharks, manta rays and rays, and chimaera, are now threatened with extinction. The updated Red List of Threatened Animals includes more than 420 assessments of shark and ray species,
Published: December 13, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:41
300 endangered shark and ray species

New assessments published in recent days by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) show that as many as 316 species of cartilaginous fish, namely sharks, manta rays and rays, and chimaera, are now threatened with extinction.
The updated Red List of Threatened Animals includes more than 420 assessments of shark and ray species, of which 154 species are classified as threatened or on the brink of extinction. These include four species of Sphyrna hammerhead sharks and four species of Squatina sharks that are threatened or critically endangered, as well as the manta ray Mobula birostris, whose risk of extinction is now described as very high.

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Sadly, all our findings were predictable, but should set off alarm bells for anyone with the welfare of the oceans at heart. It’s been twenty years since the international community spotted the threats to this issue that are driving these animals to the brink of extinction,” said Dr Andy Cornish, leader of WWF’s global shark and ray conservation programme

The IUCN update notes that the first shark or ray species may have already gone extinct. The lost shark Carcharhinus obsoletus has been classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct), meaning there is a chance that it is already extinct and does not occur in the wild. However, more research is needed to prove this.

Of the 200 or so species for which data were previously lacking, meaning that the available information was insufficient to assess their conservation status, 57 are now endangered. Together with the case of the missing shark, this reveals a worrying trend where newly described species or those we do not know enough about are already in danger. This highlights the importance of species-specific information, and in particular shark and ray catch data, to enable their effective conservation.

Since the last global update of the Red List of sharks and rays in 2014, these marine fish are fast becoming one of the most endangered vertebrate groups on the planet.

Governments must urgently take measures to curb overfishing of sharks and rays. We must also desperately increase efforts to restore populations of the most endangered species. Failure to do so will inevitably cause a wave of species extinctions on our watch. We must seize the moment to prevent this,” said Dr Cornish

In most cases we already have the solutions required. Management strategies that are effective in rebuilding populations are usually a combination of well-enforced catch limits or bans on a species with protection of critical habitat. There are also already examples of fish that have been successfully saved in this way, rebuilding populations to the point where they are no longer at risk of extinction.

The oceans are in crisis due to pollution, climate change and overexploitation of marine organisms on a massive scale. Sharks and rays, which evolved more than 400 million years ago, are among the most affected by overfishing. Their populations continue to decline, yet more than 1,000 species of sharks and rays play various key roles in marine ecosystems, making them linked to the health of our ocean and the people who depend on it.

Photo: Arturo de Frias Marques/CC BY-SA 4.0

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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