Global oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by 71 percent since 1970, mainly due to overfishing, an international research team found.
The team includes National Taiwan Ocean University professor Liu Kwang-ming (劉光明).
Liu is part of a shark expert group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the university said in a news release on Friday.
The team assessed the global population of 31 oceanic shark and ray species over the past century, using the Living Planet Index and the Red List Index to track progress toward Aichi biodiversity targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals, the university said.
The findings were on Wednesday published in the journal Nature under the title “Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays.”
Since 1970, the global population of oceanic sharks and rays has declined by 71 percent due to an 18-fold increase in fishing, the team found.
“This depletion has increased the global extinction risk to the point at which three-quarters of the species comprising this functionally important assemblage are threatened with extinction,” the study’s abstract read.
Sharks and rays grow slowly and produce relatively few offspring, making them more vulnerable to the effects of overfishing, said Liu, director of the university’s George Chen Shark Research Center.
Using regional fisheries resource assessments, the team found that overfishing was the major cause of marine defaunation, as well as the plunging population of sharks and rays, he said.
Strict prohibitions or precautionary catch limits on fishing certain species are needed to prevent their populations from collapsing, Liu said.
The team next plans to assess the population of sharks and rays living at the bottom of the ocean, to promote sustainable ecosystems and marine resource extraction, he said.
The study also involved contributions by researchers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US, the study showed.
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