A quarter of the world's sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, according to IUCN Red List™ criteria, with rays at greater risk than sharks
PRESS RELEASE | Gland, Switzerland | January 21, 2014
"Our analysis shows that sharks and their relatives are facing an alarmingly elevated risk of extinction," says Dr. Nick Dulvy, IUCN SSG Co-Chair and professor at Simon Fraser University. "In greatest peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in shallow water that is accessible to fisheries."
Reported shark, ray, and chimaera catches peaked in 2003 and have been dominated by rays for 40 years. Unintentionally caught sharks and rays account for much of the catch, yet developing markets and depletion of targets have made this "bycatch" increasingly welcome.
The rapid expansion of human activities threatens ocean-wide biodiversity. Numerous marine animal populations have declined, yet it remains unclear whether these trends are symptomatic of a chronic accumulation of global marine extinction risk. The first systematic analysis of threat for a globally distributed lineage of 1,041 chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, rays, and chimaeras) was published in the journal eLife in 2014.
This paper estimated that one-quarter are threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria due to overfishing (targeted and incidental). Large-bodied, shallow-water species are at greatest risk and five out of the seven most threatened families are rays. Overall, chondrichthyan extinction risk is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates, and only one-third of species are considered safe. Population depletion has occurred throughout the world’s ice-free waters, but is particularly prevalent in the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle and Mediterranean Sea. Improved management of fisheries and trade is urgently needed to avoid extinctions and promote population recovery.
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Species Listed as Critically Endangered
The Critically Endangered and ironically named Common Skate (Dipturus batis) reaches a maximum length of 2.5 m. This egg-laying ray, and others like it, has been eliminated from shallow temperate seas throughout its range an is only found in a few deepwater places and rocky habitats that are too difficult to trawl. Photo Credit: Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN).
The Critically Endangered Angel Shark (Squatina squatina) has almost disappeared from European waters and can now only be found with any regularity in the Canary Islands. It was formerly a common and important bottom-dwelling predator over large areas of its coastal and outer continental shelf sediment habitat in the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas. Most of this region is now subject to intense demersal fisheries, and the species is highly vulnerable (from birth onwards) to bycatch in the benthic trawls, set nets and bottom longlines operating through most of its range and habitat. Photo Credit: Tony Gilbert.
Species Listed as Endangered or Vulnerable
The Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphryna mokarran) is a large, widely distributed, tropical shark largely restricted to continental shelves that is listed as Endangered. It is highly valued for its fins (in target and incidental fisheries), suffers very high bycatch mortality and only reproduces once every two years, making it vulnerable to overexploitation and population depletion. Photo Credit: Neil Hammerschlag.
Species Listed as Near Threatened
Species Listed as Least Concern
Fisheries Catches and Landing Sites