In the spotlight:
It is often believed that wide-ranging oceanic sharks are so fast and powerful that they are quite resilient when it comes to fishing pressure. Actually, this is quite the contrary. Most sharks are carnivorous and thus rely on the availability of a lot of animal food, they also tend to mature slowly (so all early catches tend to reduce the possibility of reproduction), they usually have a small number of offsprings.
However, this is not taken into account in fishing practices. Probably under the pressure of Asian countries booming markets and culture-related food habits (like the “shark fin soup”), sharks and rays are fished extensively out of any quotas or limitations. Nevertheless, their populations are depleting quickly. An international study, organised by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG), shows that within the 21 species studied, the extinction rate “is ten to a hundred times greater than historic extinction rates“.
They also make sound proposals for how to manage the situation (like “establishing and enforcing science-based catch limits for sharks and rays” or “ensuring an end to shark finning (removing fins and discarding bodies at sea)“).
Source: IUCN Shark Specialist GrouP.