North Atlantic Rays and Sharks Face Extinction

The IUCN have today announced the findings of an investigation into the state of the North Atlantic’s rays and sharks; 26 per cent of these face extinction with 20% ‘near threatened.’

The estimated percentage is conservative however, insofar as many of the species (27%) assessed lacked sufficient data to effectively assess their status. Even the conservative estimate of 26 per cent threatened, is much greater than the global average of 18 per cent.

Claudine Gibson, former Programme Officer for the IUCN SSG and lead author of the report said: “Most sharks and rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing because of their tendency to grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young. Those at greatest risk of extinction in the northeast Atlantic include heavily fished, large sharks and rays, like porbeagle and common skate, as well as commercially valuable deep water sharks and spiny dogfish.”

Presently the UK and Sweden are leading Europe on marine conservation, with full protection offered for some shark and ray species. The EU has imposed some limits on skate and ray species, although full consideration to scientists’ recommendations has not yet been conceded.

The primary cause of their alarming status is overfishing. As the annual meeting for EU quotas looms closer, there will be opportunities to bolster the recovery of these species.

Sonja Fordham, Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSG and Policy Director for the Shark Alliance called for government officials to listen up and take notice:

“Country officials should heed the dire warnings of this report and act to protect threatened sharks and rays at national, regional and international levels. Such action is immediately possible and absolutely necessary to change the current course toward extinction of these remarkable ocean animals,”

This report highlights the urgent need to ratify the Marine Bill, due to be announced in the forthcoming Queen’s speech.