Nearly two-thirds of the world’s coral reef shark and ray species could go extinct.
JCU’s Professor Colin Simpfendorfer was part of an international team of researchers that evaluated the extinction risk of all 134 coral reef shark and ray species.
The study found 59% of coral reef shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, making them the most threatened group in the world other than marine mammals.
Professor Simpfendorfer says the researchers found fishing was the main threat to these species, compounded by habitat loss and climate change.
“Risk is greatest for larger species that live in shallower water and are widely distributed across a number of national jurisdictions, so subject to a patchwork of management. Risk also increases for animals living in the waters of nations with greater fishing pressure and weaker governance,” says Professor Simpfendorfer.
He also says the study showed the extinction risk for coral reef sharks and rays, is almost double that of all 1199 known shark and ray species and is calling for greater protection for the species.
“What we need to see is immediate action through local protections, combined with broad-scale fisheries management and Marine Protected Areas,” said Professor Simpfendorfer.
“This is required to avoid extinctions and the loss of critical ecosystem function – condemning reefs to a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, limiting livelihoods and food security.”