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More than half of shark and ray species threatened

Some sharks are caught by accident (Shutterstock)
DUBAI: More than half of all species of sharks, rays, and sawfish are in some way threatened in the Arabian Gulf a new report has revealed, largely because of over fishing and habitat destruction.
Particularly at risk is the smoothtooth blacktip shark is on the brink of extinction according to the report published by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), UAE daily The National has reported.
The smoothtooth blacktip shark is one of three species of the chondrichthyan family (which include sharks and rays) that has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to the regional “Red List” report, the Arabian Sea and adjacent waters are “home to some of the most threatened chondrichthyan populations in the world,” The National added.
Of the 153 species recorded in the Arabian Gulf 78 are considered threatened to some extent – that is nearly 51 percent, the report adds.
The other two chondrichthyan recorded as being on the brink of extinction are the stripenose guitarfish, which live near the seabed and is vulnerable to modern trawler fleets, and the red sea torpedo, another ray.
It is thought the latter species is possibly extinct.
The report revealed that there was only 19 of the 153 species whose numbers were deemed healthy, but there was insufficient data to draw any conclusive decisions on approximately 30 other species.
“We are all concerned about the long-term survival of many species of sharks and rays in our region and these results provide an important baseline for monitoring their status,” said Dr. Rima Jabado, Fisheries Scientist at EAD.
“Relevant stakeholders across the region need to work closely together to ensure immediate actions are taken to halt and reverse these declines.”
The report revealed that while some species were specifically targeted by fishermen, others were simply caught up in the nets accidently – which is known as “by-catching.”
Other threats faced by these species include coastal development projects that damage their natural habitats, including mangroves and coral reefs.
The report covered the Red Sea coasts of Egypt, Saudi and Somalia, as well as India and Pakistan. The research also included all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The report concludes that there needs to be more joined-up approach to conservation, with more coordination in policy making in the area.

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