Sharks and Rays are Declining Fast
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IUCN shark specialist team used the Living Planet Index (a measure of changes in abundance) and the Red List Index (a measure of extinction risk) to research 31 species of pelagic sharks and rays. The team found that, since 1970, the global abundance of oceanic sharks and rays has declined by 71%. The main cause is an 18-fold increase in relative fishing pressure, ¾ of the species studied in the research are threatened with extinction.
The study attributes these declines to overfishing. The increase in relative fishing pressure is 18-times compared to half a century ago. The study also found that there is an increase in the proportion of sharks that are being fished beyond sustainable levels.
To begin the recovery of oceanic shark and ray populations, banning fishing fleets from hotspots of oceanic sharks and rays is necessary. Strict measures to prohibit landings of these species and to minimize their bycatch in other fisheries are needed immediately and must be coupled with strict enforcement.
Other solutions include modifying fishing gear and improving how sharks and rays are released after capture, to give them a better chance of survival.