(ORDO NEWS) — Nearly two-thirds of the sharks and rays that live around the world’s coral reefs are endangered, according to a new study.
This in turn could lead to “potentially dire consequences for marine ecosystems,” the scientists said.
The main reason for the decline in the number of sharks and rays over the past half century has been overfishing, with the largest sharks and rays particularly hard hit.
“These sharks and rays have evolved over 450 million years and survived six mass extinctions, but they can’t handle that kind of fishing load,” said Prof Colin Simpfendorfer, a shark and ray expert and co-lead author of the study from the Australian James Cook Foundation.
“It’s not just a few species,” he said. “This is a massive extinction crisis.”
The study says that the disappearance of sharks and rays will have cascading effects on other species. Coral reef ecosystems may be under threat. “Negative effects will be difficult or impossible to correct,” said a group of more than 30 researchers.
Scientists recalled that reefs are also suffering from global warming.
Without widespread and urgent global action to reduce shark and ray harvests, there will be “increasingly severe impacts on the health of the coral reef ecosystem.”
The authors of the study examined the conservation status assessments of all 1,200 species of sharks and rays, which are coordinated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Coral reefs are inhabited by 134 of these species.
Using a number of previous studies and fisheries data, the authors conclude that reef sharks and rays are at much greater risk than other sharks and rays. Larger species traveling long distances were more vulnerable as they moved through different jurisdictions with different levels of protection.
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