More Than Half of the Mediterranean Sea’s Sharks Are at Risk of Extinction

Conservationists are calling for urgent action to protect sharks, rays and chimaeras in the Mediterranean Sea, after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) issued a sobering update on their status.

According to the IUCN, measures that have been adopted over the past 10 years to reduce the overexploitation of sharks haven’t been effective enough to stop dozens of species from sliding toward extinction.

Over just the past half-century, 13 species have already become locally extinct in various places throughout the region – mainly in the North West Mediterranean waters of Spain, France, and Italy. Now, it looks like more are headed in that direction.

For the latest assessment, experts from the IUCN and Mediterranean region examined the status of 73 species of sharks and rays and concluded that more than half of them – 22 of 41 shark species and 16 of the 32 species of rays – are threatened with extinction. Of these, 20 species are now Critically Endangered, and 11 are Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Experts also fear the threat of losing more species may be worse than what’s being estimated because of all the species assessed, 13 of them are still data deficient.

The rapid decline, particularly where there have already been local extinctions, is being attributed to overfishing and the loss of species as bycatch. The problem with bycatch is believed to be especially bad bad when it comes to longline fisheries targeting swordfishes and tuna. Unfortunately the problem isn’t solved with regulation.

According to the assessment, pelagic sharks are being increasingly targeted as regulations for tuna and swordfishes are increased, and the status of several species, including basking sharks, white sharks, blue sharks and smooth hammerhead sharks has worsened.

The illegal use of driftnets, which were banned in 2002, is also believed to be widespread throughout the Mediterranean Sea and has likely caused countless deaths that have gone unaccounted for.

Conservationists hope the latest assessment leads to better regulations that are enforced, more data collection and far more awareness on our part of the true cost of eating fish.

“Governments need to support catch monitoring and data collection, regulate gears and establish fishing quotas and protected areas at domestic level. Consumers on the other hand need to be aware of the risk of what buying these products entails,” said Dr. Nick Dulvy, Co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and researcher at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

For more on how to support efforts to protect sharks, check out the Shark Trust.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

76 comments

Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Brett Cloud
Brett Cloud11 months ago

Ty

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Brett Cloud
Brett Cloud11 months ago

Ty

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran11 months ago

noted

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John chapman
John chapman11 months ago

Don't any of these countries have marine police?

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Anne H
Anne H11 months ago

Noted this

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Lori Hone
Lori Hone11 months ago

ty

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Patricia Harris
Patricia Harris11 months ago

Misss D, good to know! Thank you for the info!

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Misss D
Misss D11 months ago

At the very end of the article, the Shark Trust was mentioned and I think it’s worth expanding on this. The ST do great work advocating for sharks. They have recently been involved in 3 three influential meetings to campaign for more effective fisheries management and trade restrictions for sharks namely, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) meeting has adopted a proposal for a stronger shark finning ban by an overwhelming margin, CITES Parties officially listed devil rays (9 species), thresher sharks (all 3 species), and the Silky Shark under CITES Appendix II and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have taken the small (yet unprecedented) step toward establishing limits on Blue Shark catches from the North Atlantic. The article mentions sharks local extinctions and the decline of species in the Med. The Shark Trust have a new project to help the Angelshark, which has suffered local extinctions in the Atlantic and whose last stronghold is in the Med. More info on that project can be found here: http://www.sharktrust.org/en/angelshark?utm_source=Shark Trust Newsletter&utm_campaign=c69a58f47a-Winter_07_12_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0c57463b30-c69a58f47a-423885005&ct=t(Winter_07_12_2016)&mc_cid=c69a58f47a&mc_eid=5b6d38233e

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