Mediterranean sharks and sting rays at risk of extinction, warns report

November 19th, 2007 - 2:02 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 19 (ANI): A new report from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has warned that 42 per cent of Mediterranean sharks and sting rays are at the risk of extinction.
“Our analyses reveal the Mediterranean Sea as one of the world’s most dangerous places on Earth for sharks and rays,” said Claudine Gibson, IUCN Shark Specialist Group program officer and co-author of the report.
“Bottom-dwelling species appear to be at greatest risk in this region, due mainly to intense fishing of the seabed,” he added.
The research group blames the plummeting populations on habitat degradation, sport angling, human disturbance, and overfishing, including fish caught as unintended bycatch.
The report also blames bottom-trawl fishing as the main cause of recent population declines of upto 80 percent.
Out of a total of 71 species that were assessed, 30 species were deemed threatened with extinction, 13 were classified as critically endangered, 8 as endangered, and 9 as vulnerable.
Critically endangered species include the seabed-hugging Maltese skate (Leucoraja melitensis), as well as the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), both prized for their meat and fins.
“We are particularly concerned about the porbeagle and mako sharks,” said Alen Soldo of the University of Split, Croatia, who participated in the study. “Our studies reveal persistent fishing pressure well in excess of the reproductive capacity of the species,” he added.
But the most astonishing find of the report was the evidence of a 50 to 60 percent drop in numbers of the great white shark in the Mediterranean region. This is an increased threat category than the shark’s current global conservation status of vulnerable.
The report determines the cause of this population collapse in the great white shark’s numbers as overfishing and declines in important prey species such as bluefin tuna. Habitat degradation due to tourism and development in coastal areas overlapping the shark’s habitat is also listed as another important reason for the situation.
Endangered species also include the giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), which is confined mainly to the Mediterranean. Its large size and low reproduction rate make the ray especially vulnerable to fishing pressure, the new report warns.
According to the report, the key to conserve remaining shark and ray populations is sustainable fisheries management, which Mediterranean countries have not been able to implement properly.
“There are currently no catch limits for commercially fished shark and ray species in the sea,” National Geographic News quoted the IUCN Shark Specialist Group a saying. “In addition, only a few species receive any protection as a result of conservation agreements,” the group added.
But the group hopes that a recent deepwater fishing ban below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) and prohibitions on driftnets and shark finning should help conservation efforts.
“Also, better enforcement measures are needed if threatened populations are to have the chance to recover,” the IUCN report added. (ANI)

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