Saturday, July 13, 2024

Over One-Third Of Sharks And Rays Are Being Pushed Toward Extinction By Overfishing


A new study re-assessing the IUCN Red List status for all sharks, rays and chimeras has found that that over one-third of these species are now at risk of extinction caused by overfishing.

Environmental groups are calling on governments and regional fisheries bodies to act now to stop overfishing and prevent a global extinction crisis.

The experts found that ?the number of threatened species has doubled since the last global study while the number of endangered and critically endangered species has more than tripled. Three species have been classified as “possibly extinct,” not having been recorded for 80 years on average. All threatened sharks and rays are being depleted by overfishing, with habitat loss and destruction and climate change compounding the risks, affecting one in three and one in 10 species respectively.

According to Dr. Andy Cornish, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s global shark and ray conservation program:

“The alarm bells could not be ringing louder for sharks and rays. We are on the cusp of starting to lose this ancient group of creatures, species by species right here, right now. Starting now, we need far greater action by governments to limit fishing and bring these functionally important animals back from the brink.”

While governments in shark-catching countries and regional fisheries management bodies have largely moved in the right direction to address overfishing over the past decade, WWF says they typically fall short of implementing measures to directly control the amount of fishing, such as through catch limits. The end result – making sharks and rays the second most threatened vertebrate group on the planet – is alarming even if predictable, with too little happening too late.

Cornish added:

“At the national level, fisheries and environmental authorities need to work together to stop overfishing and halt further declines. This is a pivotal moment in time. If we act now, we still have a good chance to save these predators that play such an important role in ocean health. However, if the status quo continues with slow incremental improvements in management, nobody should be surprised when shark and ray species start disappearing on our watch. This study is a huge wake up call! All countries and regional fisheries bodies that catch sharks and rays need to step up and take responsibility.”

The most endangered sharks and rays will need recovery plans that reduce mortality from fishing to as close to zero as possible, according to WWF.

For those species that can still sustain fishing, WWF is calling for well-enforced, science-based catch limits to prevent declines that could lead to recoveries. Where catch limits are not feasible, protecting critical habitats for sharks and rays and reducing incidental fishing mortality (i.e. through catch mitigation measures) can reduce overfishing.

Check out the study here.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.