Study finds one-in-four shark species faces extinction

Global study cites overfishing as main threat

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Caitlin Rockett

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.