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Which shark and ray species are most endangered? A sad gallery…

There has been a lot of publicity about shark culling in West Australia, Isle de la Réunion and Seychelles. And rightfully so.
But the populations of several less charismatic species have dwindled, and most people are probably not even aware. And therefore, they do not care… you will never protect what you do not know. Time for an introduction!

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is now 50 years old, and besides many terrestial species, many elasmobranchs are listed. A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction according to the List, with ray species found to be at a higher risk than sharks. The findings are part of the first ever global analysis of these species carried out by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG).

Many elasmobranchs are caught unintentionally, but developing markets and depleting fishery targets have made this “bycatch” increasingly welcome. Intentional killing of sharks and rays due to the perceived risk that they pose to people, fishing gear or target species is contributing to the threatened status of at least 12 species.

A slide by Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International (sharkadvocates.org), including the most threatened elasmobranch families

“Surprisingly, we have found that the rays, including sawfish, guitarfish, stingrays, and wedgefish, are generally worse off than the sharks, with five out of the seven most threatened families made up of rays,” says Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, IUCN SSG Co-Chair and Professor of Environmental Science at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. “While public, media and government attention to the plight of sharks is growing, the widespread depletion of rays is largely unnoticed. Conservation action for rays is lagging far behind, which only heightens our concern for this species group.”
The global shark fin market is a major factor in the depletion of not only sharks but also some rays with valuable fins, such as guitarfish. Sharks, rays and chimaeras are also sought for their meat and used in other products.

The depletion is most dramatic in the Gulf of Thailand and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Red Sea the situation is also rapidly declining.
“Sharks, rays and chimaeras grow slowly and produce few young, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to overfishing,” says Sonja Fordham, IUCN SSG Deputy Chair and president of the Washington, DC-based Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “Significant policy strides have been made over the last two decades but effective conservation requires a dramatic acceleration in pace as well as an expansion of scope to include all shapes and sizes of these exceptional species. Our analysis clearly demonstrates that the need for such action is urgent.

More info (full article and presentation):

http://www.iucn.org/?uNewsID=14311

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