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A study has found that there has been a 71 percent decline in shark and ray populations over the past 50 years, with the smooth hammerhead the only species not to decrease in number over this period.
Researchers say immediate action is needed to save these 'extraordinary, irreplaceable animals' from extinction, with the decline attributed primarily to overfishing.
Speaking to BBC News, Dr Richard Sherley of the University of Exeter - a researcher on the study - said: "That's the driver for the 70 percent reduction in the last 50 years. For every 10 sharks you had in the open ocean in the 1970s, you would have three today, across these species, on average.
"These are some of the big, important, open ocean predators that people will be familiar with. The kind of sharks that people might describe as awe-inspiring or charismatic."
He added that the onus is on citizens the world over to put pressure on governments to take decisive steps to tackle overfishing.
He said: "The science is there, there needs to be the desire to do those stock assessments, to implement the measures that are needed to reduce the take of sharks and that political will has to come from pressure from citizens."
Major new #OceanicSharkStatus analysis published in @nature documents 71% global decline for oceanic sharks & rays over past 50 years, mainly due to #overfishing. 77% of these species now threatened: https://t.co/GPBjn4gPjN #GlobalSharkTrends #SharkLeague #MakeOrBreak4Makos pic.twitter.com/Jw2WmPKxIr- Shark Advocates (@SharkAdvocates) January 27, 2021
As well as being killed for their meat and oils, sharks and rays often die after being caught inadvertently, with 24 species now classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
But it's not all doom and gloom, as it seems when strictly enforced fishing regulations are put in place, populations - such as that of the Great White - can make a recovery.
The question is whether such measures will be put in place before it's too late.
Sonja Fordham, president of The Ocean Foundation's non-profit project Shark Advocates International, said: "Relatively simple safeguards can help to save sharks and rays, but time is running out.
"We urgently need conservation action across the globe to prevent myriad negative consequences and secure a brighter future for these extraordinary, irreplaceable animals."
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