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Mediterranean countries at a critical time to recover threatened sharks and rays

On Shark Awareness Day (14 July), WWF launches a call to Mediterranean countries to implement the binding measures that they recently adopted and that would improve the management of fisheries and trade in the species and help the recovery of the 42 sharks and rays species still threatened.

In an overheating Mediterranean sea, healthy shark and ray populations can contribute to mitigate the impact of climate change by increasing carbon sequestration and enhancing marine biodiversity. 

Simone Niedermueller at WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: 

“The importance of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean cannot be overstated. They have various important roles, from some rays being habitat engineers to the way some species move the nutrients between different layers of the ocean to the species they eat and the carbon they store in their large bodies. Healthy shark and ray populations can also contribute to the vital blue carbon cycle of our ocean and also help mitigate the impact of climate change.” 

While WWF applauds recent measures aimed at ensuring sustainable fisheries for sharks and rays in the Mediterranean, and soon prohibiting 39 species to be fished in recreational fisheries, their effectiveness could be dangerously compromised by slow implementation at national level. WWF highlights that some critically endangered species like Bullray, Common Eagle Ray and Lusitanian Cownose Ray still remain without any regional protection or management measure. Delayed action puts threatened shark and ray species at continued risk and jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of the fisheries and the entire marine ecosystem. We stand at a critical juncture in the conservation of sharks and rays and their important roles in the Mediterranean.

While recent binding decisions offer hope for the maintenance and rebuilding of their roles, Mediterranean countries must take a leadership role by putting in place science-based fisheries management measures, allocating adequate resources for their implementation and enforcement, supporting all stakeholders including fishers to comply with the new measures, ensuring data collection and monitoring and stepping up conservation of critical habitats for sharks and rays.

Further resources on Mediterranean sharks and rays, illegal fishing and meat trade: here