A recent study published in the journal Nature has revealed that the number of sharks in the oceans has reduced by 71% since the 1970s. Ray populations are also plummeting. Because of these alarming findings, researchers are now calling on governments to take drastic measures to reverse the trend. The study authors blamed most of the losses on overfishing.

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Sharks and rays are often fished for food but are also victims of sportfishing in many parts of the world. More disheartening is the fact that these animals are already at risk of extinction, according to Nicholas Dulvy, professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

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“Overfishing of oceanic sharks and rays jeopardizes the health of entire ocean ecosystems as well as food security for some of the world’s poorest countries,” Dulvy said.

In the study, 31 species of sharks and rays found in the open oceans were analyzed. Of these species, 24 are already classified as threatened by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Further, three shark species — the oceanic whitetip shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark and the great hammerhead shark — are currently listed as critically endangered.

For these wildlife populations to recover, scientific data must be taken into account. According to Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, great white sharks are now recovering thanks to scientific data that influenced fishing limits.

“Relatively simple safeguards can help to save sharks and rays, but time is running out,” Fordham said. “We urgently need conservation action across the globe to prevent myriad negative consequences and secure a brighter future for these extraordinary, irreplaceable animals.”

+ Nature


Image via Jonas Allert