IUCN Shark Specialist Group Flags Need to Protect Critically Endangered “Rhino Rays”
PRESS RELEASE | London, 18 July, 2019
“As wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes edge out sawfishes for the ‘most endangered’ title, we face the challenge of securing widespread protections for species that have gone largely unnoticed by governments and conservationists alike,” said Professor Nicholas Dulvy, SSG Co-chair based at Simon Fraser University. “Dubbing the two families collectively as Rhino Rays --after their distinctive, pointy snouts -- was step one in an effort to raise their profile and better broadcast their urgent plight.”
The fins of Rhino Rays are prized for shark fin soup. The meat is also valued and, in some cases, gelatinous filling in their snouts is considered a delicacy. As a result, Rhino Rays are fished in much of the world’s warm, coastal waters, particularly the Red Sea, the Indo-Malay Archipelago, along the Indian coast, and off most of Africa. Like many other rays and sharks, they have relatively low reproductive rates that leave them especially susceptible to overfishing.
“We’ve assessed almost all Rhino Rays as Critically Endangered based on declines of more than 80% over the past 30 to 45 years,” said Dr. Peter Kyne of Charles Darwin University, who serves as SSG Red List Authority Coordinator. “Two species with very restricted ranges – the Clown Wedgefish of the Indo-Malay Archipelago and False Shark Ray of Mauritania -- appear very close to extinction, while the Blackchin Guitarfish is now gone from much of the Mediterranean.”
The Mediterranean has the world’s only international Rhino Ray ban; it is not yet well implemented. Only eight of 88 range countries impose specific Rhino Ray conservation measures.
“Most of the fisheries that take Rhino Rays are poorly monitored, essentially unregulated, and increasingly intense,” says Sonja Fordham, SSG Deputy Chair and president of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “Developing the catch and trade controls needed to reverse Rhino Ray declines will also benefit other marine species and associated ecosystems, as well as fishers, in the long run. To start, we need immediate, basic protections to save these remarkable rays from extinction. Time is running out.”
Rhino Rays are proposed for Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which would obligate Parties to regulate exports based on determinations that products were legally and sustainably sourced. Decisions on these proposals take place in August.
Patricia Roy, email@example.com, tel. +34 696 905 907.
Notes to Editors:
Made up of 174 experts from 55 countries, the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Shark Specialist Group (SSG) aims for the conservation, management and, where necessary, the recovery of the world's sharks, rays, and chimaeras by providing the technical and scientific expertise that enables action: www.iucnssg.org.
The new Red List Assessments for Rhino Rays, available at www.iucnredlist.org, are part of the SSG’s Global Shark Trends Project, which is assessing the extinction risk of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras by 2020: www.iucnssg.org/global-shark-trends-project.html The project is a partnership between Simon Fraser University, Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, and the Georgia Aquarium, with support from the Shark Conservation Fund.
Link to RL table: 2019 IUCN Red List Update
Images for media use can be found here
Fast Facts: Rhino Rays (Wedgefishes & Giant Guitarfishes)