Whale sharks a step closer to extinction

Whale sharks a step closer to extinction

Growing human pressure on whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, and on winghead sharks, a type of hammerhead, have put these species at increased risk of extinction, according to the latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments.

Both species have now been re-categorised as “endangered”.

The world’s whale-shark population has more than halved over the past 75 years through fishing, particularly now in southern China and Oman, as well as contact with ships’ propellers.

Whale sharks are often caught unintentionally by tuna fisheries. IUCN has however recognised the efforts of India, the Philippines and Taiwan in ending large-scale fishing of whale sharks in their waters.

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The international whale-shark trade is regulated through the CITES endangered-species listing, “but more needs to be done domestically to protect whale sharks at a national level,” said lead Red List assessor and diver Simon Pierce, who is also co-founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

Unregulated fishing was also behind the threat to winghead sharks, which are prone to entanglement in nets.

“It is alarming to see such emblematic species slide towards extinction,” said Jane Smart, IUCN’s Global Species Programme Director, referring to the increased threat not only to the sharks but to Borneo’s orang-utan.

“The world’s oceans and forests will only continue to provide us with food and other benefits if we preserve their capacity to do so.”

A full update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is set to be announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 in Hawaii at the start of September.

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12-Jul-16

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