Sharks and rays have flourished in the oceans for more than 400 million years. During their long history they have evolved characteristics that have allowed them to be successful in all marine communities. Every ocean animal known today - fishes, invertebrates and sea mammals, have evolved in balance with sharks. They are perfect predators with intrinsic beauty who play a vital role in ocean ecology.
Research confirms the widely-accepted idea that slow-growing sharks and rays are exceptionally vulnerable to over-fishing, and that deep-water species are being depleted at an alarming rate. Traditionally, sharks and rays were seen as less valuable than conventional fish stocks and were fished less frequently. However, these species are now considered more valuable due to human population growth and the depletion of many traditional fish stocks (such as Sardines) through modern fishing methods. Presently, it is estimated that 55-100 million sharks and rays are killed each year. Some formerly important commercial species, like angel sharks, are now so rare that they are no longer being actively sought by fishermen, but their risk of extinction is still rising because of by-catch in fisheries for more abundant species.
Iemanya uses The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as the source for endangered sharks and rays. It is the world’s most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity. To date the IUCN has assessed 541 species of shark and ray through its Shark Specialist Group. This represents slightly less than half of the known species. Currently 98 species of shark and ray are vulnerable to extinction within all or part of their range. This means without removal of fishing pressures these animals face the very real threat of extinction. An additional 95 sharks and rays are listed as nearly threatened. Essentially they will join the above group in the near future if steps are not made to protect them.
Sharks once as common as the blue, mako and hammerhead are on that list. Animals that have a far greater value for tourism such as giant manta rays are listed as vulnerable to extinction in the Sea of Cortez where Iemanya conducts its conservation programs.
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