A recent assessment of the extinction risks of Australian shark and ray species has found that, without urgent action, 39 out of the country’s 328 species are at risk of extinction. The Action Plan for Australian Sharks and Rays provides not only a benchmark from which changes in population and extinction risk can be measured, but also guidelines for their conservation.
Australia is home to over a quarter of the world’s shark species, out of which 12 percent face the risk of extinction. “While Australia’s risk is considerably lower than the global level of 37 percent, it does raise concern for the 39 Australian species assessed as having an elevated risk of extinction,” said study lead author Peter Kyne.
According to Kyne and his colleagues, for iconic species such as the Great White Shark or the Grey Nurse Shark, there are “positive signs” that protection and management measures are working, although they still remain threatened. In the case of other species, however, there is currently not enough effort being made to save them.
“Around Australia, many of our threatened sharks and rays are not commercially important so these are largely ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but they require protection at national, state and territory levels,” explained Kyne.
However, the report indicates that 80 percent of the Australian shark species are not threatened. “In Australia, comprehensive fisheries management along with vast areas that are unfished or lightly fished and the marine protected area network have helped secure the status of many species,” said study co-author Michelle Heupel.
Moreover, Australia is also a refuge for 45 species that are threatened in other parts of the globe, including the Giant Guitarfish or the Spotted Eagle Ray. “But while we should celebrate the secure status of many species, we urgently need to increase our research and management efforts for Australia’s threatened sharks and rays,” concluded Kyne.
The study was funded and published by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program Marine Biodiversity Hub.