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FAO – News article: Sharks of the Mediterranean and the Black sea on the verge of extinction

 “Serious consequences” threatened marine ecosystems

Black tip sharks are threatened in the Mediterranean sea.

The population of sharks in the Mediterranean and Black sea declined drastically over the last two centuries and is on the verge of extinction that threatens serious consequences for entire marine ecosystems in the region, according to a new FAO study.

The number of sharks in the Mediterranean sea and “catch weight” decreased by more than 97% over the past 200 years. If the present trend continues, these predators may disappear, the report said.

In the Black sea, despite the fact that the information is quite scarce, the level of catches of shark species also decreased about two times compared with the beginning of the 1990s

Such losses of top predators can lead to serious consequences for entire marine ecosystems and have a huge impact on the natural food connection throughout the region, the report said.

The study “Elasmobranchs of the Mediterranean and Black sea: status, ecology and biology” was prepared by the General fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, one of several regional bodies of FAO involved in the fisheries sector.

Critical danger

Cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays, to a greater extent than other fish species Sredizemnogo Black sea is exposed to danger. Of 71 species of cartilaginous fishes, which were assessed in the Mediterranean sea in 2007, 30 species or 42% were threatened, of which 13% were in critical condition, 11% were at risk and 13% were vulnerable. Another 18% were in the category “at risk”.

Cartilaginous fish have a cartilaginous skeleton instead of bones. Their biological characteristics, including low fecundity, late maturity and slow growth make them more vulnerable than bony fish because their rate of reproduction is slower. Therefore, problems such as overfishing, wide use of non-selective fishing practices and degradation of their habitats, causing great harm to these species.

Usually in the Mediterranean and the Black sea not being purposeful catching of sharks and rays, but it happens by accident. Annual total discharge in the Mediterranean and Black sea currently reaches 7000 tons, for comparison in 1985 it amounted to 25,000 tonnes, indicating a serious decline in the population.

At the same time, targeted fishing for sharks is gaining momentum due to rapidly increasing demand for shark fins, meat and cartilage.

Damage to the environment

The habitat has suffered significant damage caused by shipping, underwater construction, development, mining and chemical industries.

The Commission has recently taken a series of measures to protect sharks and rays, among which are the reduction of the “finning” (the removal of fins at sea and discarding of carcass) and the reduction of trawl fishing within 3 nautical miles from the shore to protect coastal sharks.

The Commission also recommends the littoral States of the Mediterranean and Black sea invest in research aimed at identifying potential habitat to protect juveniles of sharks and rays from fishing activities.

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