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New study: Mediterranean and Black Sea sharks risk extinction

In June 2008 a scientific study funded in part by the Lenfest Ocean Program concluded that all shark species assessed in the Mediterranean Sea declined by more than 97 percent in abundance and “catch weight” over the last 200 years.

The findings of the study, Shark Declines in the Mediterranean Sea: A Summary of New Scientific Analysis, published in the journal Conservation Biology, suggested several Mediterranean shark species are at risk of extinction, especially if current levels of fishing pressure continue.

Lead author Francesco Ferretti and his co-authors were are concerned that the declines in sharks may have implications for the broader Mediterranean marine ecosystem.

 

Read more about this study at:
http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/mediterranenan-sharks217.html#cr

This year, the authors of a new research paper “ELASMOBRANCHS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN AND BLACK SEA: STATUS, ECOLOGY AND BIOLOGY”, a bibliographic analysis, also bring us a very pessismistic message.

They have compiled published information on taxonomy, distribution, status, statistics, fisheries, bycatch, biologic and ecologic parameters on age and growth, food and feeding habits, reproductive biology and stock assessment of elasmobranchs in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. This bibliographic analysis, through 661 papers dealing with elasmobranchs in the GFCM area, shows that cartilaginous species, including sharks, rays and chimaeras, are by far the most endangered group of marine fish in the Mediterranean Sea, with 31 species (40 percent of all) critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. The biological characteristics of elasmobranchs (low fecundity, late maturity, slow growth) make them more vulnerable to fishing pressure than most teleost fish.

 

Blue sharks are regularly observed in the Mediterranean – but could disappear soon (picture Peter Verhoog, Dutch Shark Society)

Overfishing, wide use of non-selective fishing practices and habitat degradation are leading to dramatic declines of these species in the Mediterranean Sea. In general, elasmobranchs are not targeted but are caught incidentally. In many fisheries they are, however, often landed and marketed.

The study also highlights the following points:
– Works are concentrated mainly in the west ern Mediterranean. Few works concern endangered species and those of the GFCM priority list;
– Much systematic confusion persists for some species and some others are doubtful;
– The IUCN red list shows clearly the vulnerability of elasmobranchs and the lack of data;
– A decline in cartilaginous fish species landings has been observed while fishing effort has generally
increased;
– A standardization of methods and expression of results on the biology should be generalized in the whole Mediterranean;
– Papers on biologic parameters concern few species primarily in the occidental and central Mediterranean area

 

You can read the whole study at:

 

http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3097e/i3097e.pdf

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