Remember the terror of Sharks in the classic movie Jaws? Well, when it comes to the Mediterranean, situation gets reversed! Yes, this time its the fish facing the danger of extinction through the human activities on the African and European coastlines.
Study conducted by World Conservation Union(IUCN) has revealed that the great white shark is among the 30 most endangered species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean. That makes the 42 percent of the total species as said by IUCN Red List assessment performed by conservation body’s Shark Specialist Group.
The group blames ever increasing human population as a cause of habitat degradation, sport angling, human disturbance and over fishing (which includes fish caught as unintended bycatch).
Bottom dwellers at high risk!
Claudine Gibson, IUCN Shark Specialist group program officer and co-author of the report says, “We have revealed that Mediterranean Sea is one of the most dangerous places on the planet for sharks and rays.” It was also found that due to extensive fishing of the seabed, bottom dwelling species were at the highest risk of extinction.
Only 14 percent ‘out of danger’
Out of the total 71 species assessed, 30 were considered at risk of facing extinction which included 13 critically endangered, 8 endangered and 9 as vulnerable. Only 10 which just made 14 percent were considered free of any extinction risk.
Critically endangered species includes bottom dwelling Maltese skate or Leucoraja melitensis that is found only in Mediterranean. Population of this species has been recently reduced by 80 percent due to indiscriminate bottom trawl fishing.
Other critically endangered species include mako shark or Isurus oxyrinchus and porbeagle shark or Lamna nasus both having high commercial value for delicious meat and fins.
Shark expert Alan Soldo, University of Split, Croatia, who also participated in study said;
Reason for the risk of extinction is very high and persistent pressure of fishing coupled with very slow pace of the species while reproducing.
Giant devil ray or Mobula mobular is another critically endangered species the reason for which is its huge size, female grows upto 17 feets or 5 meters and low capacity to reproduce; only 1 pup is born to a female per pregnancy.
Great White population reduced by 50-60 percent!
One of the deadliest aquatic predator, the great white shark or carcharodon carcharias is struggling for its existence in the Mediterranean Sea. Overfishing and decline in number of its important prey like bluefin tuna have reduced great white population by 50 to 60 percent. Habitat degradation due to tourism and development that along coast overlapping sharks habitat were among other important reasons for decline in population.
Saving the Shark
Remaining shark populations can only be conserved if there were sustainable fisheries management. Ase per IUCN Shark Specialist Group currently there are no catch limits for commercially fished shark and ray species.
However, recently a deepewater fishing ban below 1000 meters and prohibitions on driftnet and shark finning have been implemented that can help conservation efforts as the group says but also adds rigid enforcement measures must be implemented if threatened populations have to be recovered.