The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – the world’s most authoritative database of conservation statuses – contains 465 shark species that have been assessed by the organization. They fall into four categories (in order of increasing urgency): near threatened, vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered.
And then there’s the fifth category of “data deficient,” meaning the IUCN lacks sufficient data to make a determination. This actually accounts for 45% of the shark species assessed, highlighting the need for further research.
But here’s how the numbers for the remaining 55% — a total of 256 species — shake out:
Critically Endangered: 11 species (includes Ganges shark, angel shark)
Endangered: 15 species (includes great hammerhead, broadfin shark)
Vulnerable: 48 species (includes whale shark, great white, basking shark)
Near Threatened: 67 species (includes bull shark, tiger shark)
Least Concern: 115 species (includes megamouth shark, tasselled wobbegong)
The good news is that almost half of the sharks the IUCN has data for are species that researchers are least concerned about. But more than a quarter — 67 species — are near threatened, meaning that while they do not qualify for conservation status, they are very close to needing it. Forty-eight species are vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. And 15 species are endangered, with a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
But most alarming: 11 of the species that the IUCN has data for are critically endangered, facing an EXTREMELY HIGH risk of extinction in the wild in the IMMEDIATE future. Remember, we don’t have enough information yet to know the population status of 209 shark species still, so this is 11 out of the 256 sharks — or more than 4% — that we do have data on. It’s 11 shark species that may be disappearing from Earth very, very soon.
And that’s just devastating.