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White tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus)

One-third of sharks, rays and chimaeras are threatened with extinction

White tip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus)

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Published 21st September 2021

TRAFFIC urges serious and swift action from global governments to overturn the international shark crisis

TRAFFIC calls for serious and swift action by global governments to prevent further depletion of shark, ray and chimaera populations following the latest IUCN Red List assessment, which delivered the shattering news that one-third of these species are now threatened with extinction.


The new global analysis, undertaken by experts from the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group (SSG), assessed 1199 shark, ray, and chimaera species and found 391 (32%) meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria to classify them as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable1. This now means that one-third of all shark, ray and chimaera species are threatened with extinction.

“The reality of this decline makes it all that much worse when we consider we have known the cause for decades,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries Trade and Traceability. “Unlike the supply chains of so many products we shop for daily, there is a lack of traceability measures to monitor and manage the landing and trade of these species.”

TRAFFIC has been calling for governments to take their responsibility seriously –  to manage, monitor and recover sharks, rays and chimaeras to sustainable levels since completing the first global trade review in 1996. It found that this was occurring mainly due to overfishing, lack of management, and true traceability. “The reality of this decline makes it all that much worse when we consider we have known the cause for decades,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries Trade and Traceability. “Unlike the supply chains of so many products we shop for daily, there is a lack of traceability measures to monitor and manage the landing and trade of these species.”

Since then, global review updates have continually added concern for these species' future – but never news as dire as this. While there are some glimpses of improved management, as a whole, these species have been neglected. The increasing threat of extinction reflects poorly on both governments commitments to protect species and secure the future of global food security.

Traceability would provide buyers with reliable, transparent, and accessible information on the origin of products whilst simultaneously providing governments, producers, processors, and retailers assurance of the product's compliance with national and international regulations and legislation.” 

TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Fisheries Trade and Traceability

Giant Shovelnose Ray, Glaucostegus typus. 

Dr Nicholas Dulvy, Professor at Simon Fraser University and Co-Chair of the IUCN SSG, said: “Our study reveals an increasingly grim reality, with these species now making up one of the most threatened vertebrate lineages, second only to the amphibians in the risks they face. The widespread depletion of these fishes, particularly sharks and rays, jeopardises the health of entire ocean ecosystems and food security for many nations around the globe.” 

Currently, a large proportion of sharks and rays are caught while fishers are targeting primarily other species, so they are often referred to as secondary, incidental or bycatch. As it stands, secondary or ‘bycatch’ of these species are usually not afforded the same attention and management intervention as the primary targeted species. Governments should focus on the overall management of shark and ray mortality rates and not disregard or claim diminished responsibility of managing reported bycatch of these species. 

“Desperate times require desperate action. Governments need to act to avoid an ever-increasing threat of extinction of these species,” Glenn Sant continues.  

For the last few years, TRAFFIC has been working to develop a tool that will enable greater traceability in the supply chains of shark, ray and chimaera, which is due to be presented later this week as part of the World Fisheries Congress, currently underway in Australia. 

All TRAFFIC shark reports since 1996 


Notes:

1. Species classified in these three IUCN categories are considered threatened with extinction.


About IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.