Spotlight On Endangered Sharks

How Many Shark Species Are Endangered?

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.

Sharkopedia : Shark Conservation |

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6 Threatened Shark Species

1 Great White Shark: Vulnerable

The “Jaws” effect on the great-white shark population has been nearly catastrophic. By 1991, numbers had plummeted so dramatically that some countries -- including the United States and Australia -- began to offer the sharks official protection. While there’s evidence that’s helped some, continued threats against the great white include targeted commercial and sports fisheries for jaws, fins and game records, protective beach meshing, and degradation of inshore habitats used as pupping and nursery grounds.

2 Common Thresher: Vulnerable

Besides being commercially valuable, the thresher shark is often bycatch in commercial fishing nets (that long tail!). The result -- compounded by the fact that they mature slowly and produce only two to four pups per litter -- is that common threshers are considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

3 Great Hammerhead: Endangered

In addition to being fished commercially, great hammerheads are often caught in nets intended for other fish, and they have a low reproductive rate. With the great hammerhead population decreasing by an estimated 80%, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species designated the great hammerhead as an endangered species, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

4 Basking Shark: Vulnerable

Although basking sharks are now a protected species in many countries, they’re still hunted for their fins, meat, cartilage, and liver oil. Given this shark’s low reproductive rate amid historic overfishing, basking shark populations are severely depleted in many areas, including the North Pacific. Consequently the basking shark is considered vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the medium-term.

5 Whale Shark: Endangered

The whale shark is now an endangered species as of 2016. Their population has declined by over 50% in the past 75 years. When these gentle giants aren’t being fished (including illegally) for their meat, fins and liver oil, they are accidental bycatch. One ray of hope, though: While it raises other concerns (such as boat injuries), whale-shark tourism has recently developed in a number of locations, potentially making this species more commercially valuable alive than dead.

6 Sand Tiger Shark: Vulnerable

The IUCN has classified the sand tiger shark as vulnerable, which means it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. Several factors have contributed to this species’ population size, including commercial fishing and a low reproduction rate, prompting the United States and Australia to grant them protection status.

Sharkopedia : Shark Conservation |

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