The following statement was issued today by Dr. Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society:
“The Wildlife Conservation Society expresses its alarm at the new findings released yesterday by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, indicating the heightened threatened status of the world’s sharks, rays, skates and chimeras, the cartilaginous fishes.
“A global analysis of the conservation status of the 1,041 species of cartilaginous fishes undertaken by IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and published today in the online journal eLife estimates that one-quarter (24%) of shark and ray species are threatened with extinction. This is a significant downward trend in the conservation status of these fishes from previous assessments and provides evidence that they are at substantially higher risk than most other groups of animals. This is a disheartening development that bodes poorly for the future of these marvelous fishes.
“Sharks and rays and their relatives comprise one of only two groups of living fishes (the other group being the bony fishes). They are evolutionarily and ecologically important while also representing great cultural and in many instances economic value. Yet, they are being overfished, in some instances to the point of extinction. As is the case with other charismatic species such as elephants and gorillas, sharks and rays both inspire us and connect us to nature. Their loss touches the core of the challenges we face in conserving wildlife and their habitats as we increase our footprint on the planet.
“We are especially concerned that five of the seven most threatened families identified in this study are actually rays, not sharks. Sawfishes, guitarfishes, stingrays, wedgefishes – these are species that are for the most part overlooked by resource managers and conservation advocates, even though they, like sharks, may be just as vulnerable, heavily exploited, and in need of conservation action. Guitarfishes, for example, are highly valued for the shark fin trade, while manta and devil rays are targeted for their gill rakers, which, like shark fins, are traded primarily for Chinese markets. Many more species are landed from targeted fisheries or as bycatch and utilized for their meat and other products. For these reasons, WCS is increasing its commitment to the conservation of sharks, rays, and their relatives over the next ten years, through our own work and through advocacy and engagement with others.
“We call on all sectors of society to take urgent steps to reduce the threats to sharks and rays. In particular, and in recognition that the major threat to these species is overfishing, we urge the fisheries sector to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and put in place and implement science-based limits on shark and ray fisheries to recover threatened and depleted species – and to champion the long-term survival of all cartilaginous fishes.”
Logo courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society