Study shows endangered sharks are being caught more frequently caught in protected Mediterranean areas
Highlighting the need for better conservation of critically threatened species, a new study has shown that endangered sharks are being caught more frequently caught in protected Mediterranean areas than in unprotected regions.
Since 1970, the demand for their fins and meat has driven an estimated 71-per cent decline in ocean sharks and rays.
Their slow growth rate and late maturity mean one-third of elasmobranchs are categorised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as at risk of extinction, although they are among one of the oldest marine species on Earth.
True global catch figures are likely to be hugely underestimated as 90 per cent of the world's fishing fleet is made up of small-scale boats, while dozens of nations have banned large-scale fishing of the critically endangered species.
For the study, researchers used photo-sampling and image analysis to compile a database covering more than 1,200 small-scale fishing operations across 11 locations in Europe.
According to the study's co-author Antonio Di Franco, from the Sicily Marine Centre, "People assume that it is large-scale trawlers that are impacting biodiversity, which is true and there's a lot of evidence for this."
"There is less research on small-scale fishing's impact and our research shows that there is this potential."
Due to the species' preference for coastal waters, more than a third of the catches in the areas are endangered.
While 517 elasmobranchs were caught compared with 358 in non-protected areas, the weight of shark, ray, or skate species caught in partially protected areas was roughly double that in non-protected areas.