Mediterranean countries must adopt urgent protection for disappearing sharks and rays

Sharks such as porbeagles and shortfin makos declined in the Mediterranean by up to 99% during the 20th Century.

Press Release Date: May 17, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

With 41% of the sharks and rays threatened, the Mediterranean is the most dangerous sea for these species

Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, urges Mediterranean nations to strengthen protection for threatened and endangered sharks and rays at the meeting of the Barcelona Convention which begins today in Marseille. This week’s meeting is critical for determining the fate of ten species in the Mediterranean. All of them are threatened by overfishing, despite already being included on a list of species whose capture must be regulated for conservation reasons, and in some cases their populations have declined to less than 1% of levels from the mid-20th Century.

“The situation for Mediterranean sharks and rays is desperate,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana in Europe. “Formally recognising these species as threatened or endangered under Annex II of the Barcelona Convention is a crucial step towards increasing their level of conservation protection. The EU and the 21 countries that are signatories to the Barcelona Convention have the opportunity – and the serious responsibility – to decide the future of these species in the Mediterranean.”

The Mediterranean is the region of greatest risk globally to sharks and rays, with 41% of species considered threatened, compared to 17% globally. Of the ten species under consideration at this week’s meeting, some have undergone severe population declines, including porbeagles, shortfin makos, and hammerheads, whose Mediterranean populations have been reduced by up to 99.9% during the 20th Century. Others, such as the sandy skate, Maltese skate, and common guitarfish, have vanished from some parts of the Mediterranean where they were once common. These dramatic declines and disappearances have been caused mainly by overfishing (both intentional and as accidental by-catch), as well as habitat degradation.

“The highly threatened status of these species, and the fact that they continue to be fished, clearly shows that current conservation and fisheries management measures are insufficient” added Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist with Oceana in Europe. “Greater protection is urgently required, and an Annex II listing under the Barcelona Convention would make Mediterranean countries responsible for guaranteeing the maximum possible protection and recovery for these threatened sharks and rays.”

Sharks play an important role within marine food webs, often acting as top predators, and helping to regulate the balance of marine ecosystems. The removal of sharks can therefore affect this balance, causing unpredictable changes in the abundance and diversity of other species.

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