A first-ever global study of the conservation status of over 1,000 shark, ray and related species reveals that at least one in every four existing species are heading toward extinction.
The study, conducted by the members of the Shark Specialist Group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, contributed to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
“In greatest peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in shallow water that is accessible to fisheries,” said Dr. Nick Dulvy, IUCN Shark Specialist Group co-chair and Canada research chair at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, in a press release by the Environmental News Service.
The study states that overfishing is the main threat to sharks and related species, with the Gulf of Thailand and the Mediterranean Sea seeing the greatest depletion.
The skeletons of these cartilagenous fish are made of cartilage rather than bone, making them desirable for food or pharmaceuticals.
While reported catches of sharks, rays, and chimaeras peaked in 2003, scientists believe that actual catches are likely to be grossly under-reported.
The results of the study come in the wake of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to allow a shark cull in Western Australian waters after six deadly shark attacks in the past two years.
Humane Society International’s Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove called the Australian shark cull “a complete disgrace,” lacking “real scientific approach” and a failure to consider larger marine implications.