A recently updated Red List analyses from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates that 316 species of sharks, rays, skates, and chimaeras, are now considered threatened with extinction, many of them as a direct consequence of overharvesting for their meat, fins, and oil. These species are members of the Chondrichthyes class which means that they have a flexible skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone.
Four species of hammerhead and angel sharks, all of which are either Endangered or Critically Endangered, are also at risk of extinction, making them among the world’s most threatened shark families in the world.
Preliminary analysis from the organization TRAFFIC have found that the total number of the global shark meat trade was fairly stable between 2008 and 2011, before increasing in 2012–2017. However, a serious lack of reporting and data collected on species that have been caught and traded obscures underlying trends in shark populations.
“On the outside, stable annual catches give the false impression that everything is fine, but in reality, they could be masking the serial depletion of species—as soon as one is fished out, the industry simply targets the next, so that one by one they disappear,” TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries and Vice Chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Glenn Sant, said in a statement.
“Fisheries need to get serious about better data collection and reporting. How can you manage something if you don’t know what’s going on under the surface,” continued Sant.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in shark and ray poaching, although the levels of monitoring have fallen due to social distancing requirements.
“This could be a recipe for disaster when overlayed with the already limited monitoring and management of these species,” concluded Sant.
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