On Thursday, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced in a press release that the Shark Specialist Group (SSG), comprised of 174 experts from 55 countries, released updated Red List Assessments for 58 elasmobranch species. Seventeen of these 58 species are classified as threatened with extinction, including reclassification of the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) from a Vulnerable to Endangered species (Roy, 2019).
The announcement came after a 2 year review of more than 400 species of elasmobranchs by the SSG. Professor Nicholas Dulvy, SSG co-chair at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said in the announcement that the results were, “alarming and yet not surprising, as we find the shark that are especially slow-growing, sought-after, and unprotected from overfishing tend to be the most threatened.” Among the species the SSG were most concerned with were the shortfin mako and its cousin the longfin mako (Isurus paucus), which was also listed as an Endangered species. Both species of mako are highly migratory and take several years until they are sexually mature (Ebert, Fowler, & Dando, 2015; Skomal, 2016). They are also highly prized for their meat and fins on the Asian markets, but to date they are not regulated by any fishing quotas. Mexico has proposed that the mako made a CITES Appendix II protected species. CITES, or the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species, Appendix II does not ban the fishing or trade of makos, however, it would regulate these practices. In May of this year, participating nations will vote on the proposal. You can follow updates on social media using the #ABreakForMakos and #CITES
When conservation biologists assess land species for the threat of extinction, they do so by focusing on population size and the geographic range. However, marine animals, including sharks and rays, can be difficult to assess in these terms. So conservation biologists, instead, look at population decline to determine the potential threat of extinction. For many species this still poses a challenge because in order to determine if a population is declining you need to have a benchmark to compare population trends. For many species, this has only been possible over the last 10 years; and for some it is still not possible, leaving many species Data Deficient. Among the 17 species the SSG categorized as facing extinction, six were listed as Critically Endangered, three of which for the first time: the Argentine angelshark (Squatina argentina), the smooth angelshark (Squatina oculata), and the whitefin swellshark (Cephaloscyllium albipinnum). Eleven others were listed as Vulnerable of Endangered.
Conservation legislation needs public support in order to become law and help protect the environment and wildlife. Tell your representatives that you care about environmental and wildlife conservation. It only takes a moment to make a change that will last a lifetime.
The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!Until next time finactics!
Featured Image Source
Heim, W. (Photographer). (2015). Shortfin Mako [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://swfsc.noaa.gov/
Ebert, D. A., Fowler, S. L., & Dando, M. (2015). Sharks of the world: a fully illustrated guide. Wild Nature Press.
Roy, P. (2019). March 2019 IUCN Red List Update Press Release. Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.iucnssg.org/press.html
Skomal, G. (2016). The Shark Handbook: The Essential Guide for Understanding the Sharks of the World. (2nd ed.). Kennebunkport, ME: Cider Mill Press.