Global shark map REVEALED: Scientists identify areas where animals are most vulnerable

A new set of global criteria will help identify important areas for sharks, rays and chimaeras to ensure the protection they desperately need from extinction.  Pictured: Conservation reference map based on shark area

As apex predators, sharks provide many vital functions to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

Sharks shape fish communities, ensure species diversity, and even help our oceans sequester more carbon by maintaining seagrass meadows.

But their apex status makes them more susceptible to human threats.

Many of these species are affected by fishing, especially in tropical and coastal areas where large communities live along the coast and depend on fish as their main source of protein.

Now researchers have created a map that reveals Shark and Ray Important Areas (ISRAs) where species of sharks, rays and chimaeras are most at risk and in need of protection.

They have also developed a framework that aims to fundamentally change the way sharks are considered in the design of protected areas and thereby support the protection they desperately need from extinction.

A new set of global criteria will help identify important areas for sharks, rays and chimaeras to ensure the protection they desperately need from extinction. Pictured: Conservation reference map based on shark area

Sharks shape fish communities, ensure species diversity, and even help our oceans sequester more carbon by maintaining seagrass meadows.

Sharks shape fish communities, ensure species diversity, and even help our oceans sequester more carbon by maintaining seagrass meadows.

IMPORTANT SHARK AND RAY ZONE CRITERIA

Vulnerability: Important areas for the persistence and recovery of threatened sharks

Restricted range: Areas with regular and/or predictable presence of range-restricted sharks that are occupied year-round or seasonally

Life history: Areas that are important for sharks to carry out vital functions throughout their life cycle, such as:

  • reproduction
  • Food
  • Rest
  • movement
  • Indefinite aggregations

Special Attributes: Areas important to sharks considered for different biological, behavioral or ecological attributes or that support a high diversity of species, such as:

“Sharks are a long-lived species: many take a long time to reach sexual maturity and then only give birth to a few young,” said Dr Rima Jabado, Chair of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group , who helped develop the framework.

“This makes them particularly susceptible to fishing pressure, and with an estimated 37% of species at high risk of extinction, they are facing a biodiversity crisis.

“The results of the ISRA project will inform policy and ensure that areas critical to the survival of sharks, rays and chimaeras are taken into account in spatial planning.”

The ISRA criteria have been developed through a collaborative process involving shark experts, conservation agencies and governments, and include four criteria and seven sub-criteria.

These consider the complex biological and ecological needs of sharks, including important areas for threatened or restricted species, specific habitats that support life-history traits, and vital functions (such as reproduction, feeding , rest, movement), the distinctive attributes and diversity of species within an area.

The map highlights shark sanctuaries (grey), no-take marine protected areas (pink), as well as biologically important areas (green), key biodiversity areas (blue) and areas with total fishing bans of sharks (white).

“Every effort is being made to ensure that ISRAs contain the best and most up-to-date site-based information that science can offer to decision-makers, managers and users of the sea,” said Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Co-Chair. of the IUCN Working Group on Marine Mammal Protected Areas and Vice-Chair of the IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group.

“As the ISRA program progresses to progressively cover the entire extent of the ocean surface (and relevant inland waters), very broad involvement of the shark expert community around the world is expected.”

Many of these species are affected by fishing, especially in tropical and coastal areas where large communities live along the coast and depend on fish as their main source of protein.

Many of these species are affected by fishing, especially in tropical and coastal areas where large communities live along the coast and depend on fish as their main source of protein.

By bringing together this information from scientific publications, reports, databases and the expertise of individual shark experts, scientists hope that ISRAs will help governing bodies develop policies and design protected areas.

“We still have a lot to learn about many species of sharks, rays and chimaeras, but unfortunately several studies indicate that many protected areas are failing to adequately meet their needs,” said Ciaran Hyde, a consultant with the IUCN Ocean Team, who helped develop the framework.

“However, ISRAs will help identify areas for these species using criteria that have been specifically designed to take into account their biological and ecological needs.”

Lynn Sorrentino, IUCN Ocean Team Program Manager, added: “The loss of sharks, rays and chimaeras will not only affect the health of the entire ocean ecosystem, but also affect the food security of many countries.” .

The work on the ISRA criteria was supported by the Save Our Seas Foundation and was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Mass extinction of up to 90% of all marine species could happen by century’s end if greenhouse gases are not curbed, new study warns

Nearly 90 percent of all marine species are at high or critical risk of extinction by the end of the century if humans do not curb greenhouse emissions, a new study warns.

A team of researchers led by Dalhousie University in Canada assessed the climate risks of nearly 25,000 species living in the top 328 feet of the ocean and found that a large number will disappear from the planet by 2100 if emissions remain at high levels or a “business as usual” scenario.

This would mean the mass death of thousands of animals, plants, chromists, protozoa and bacteria that call the world’s oceans their home.

The analysis shows that a “disproportionately large number” of sharks, rays and mammals are at high or critical climate risk; 75 percent of them are predicted to be extinct by 2100.

All threatened species also live in some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the Gulf of Thailand, the Coral Triangle, northern Australia, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the coast of India, the Caribbean and some Pacific islands .

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