Scientists map the world of sharks to protect them from human threats

Sharks provide many vital functions to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Sharks form fish communities, ensure species diversity, and even help our oceans sequester more carbon by maintaining seagrass meadows, but their situation makes them more vulnerable to human threats.

According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, many of these species are affected by fishing, especially in tropical and coastal areas where large communities live along the coast and depend on fish as their main source of protein.

The researchers have now created a map that reveals Important Sharks Areas (ISRAs) where sharks are most vulnerable and need protection.

The researchers also developed a framework that aims to fundamentally change how sharks are considered in the design of protected areas, thus supporting much-needed protection in the face of extinction.

“Sharks are a long-lived species, many of which take a long time to reach sexual maturity and then only give birth to a few babies,” said Dr. Reema Gabado, president of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group, who helped develop the framework.

This makes it particularly vulnerable to hunting pressure, and with an estimated 37% of species at critical risk of extinction, it is facing a biodiversity crisis.

The new map identifies shark reserves (grey), marine protected areas (pink), as well as Biologically Important Areas (green), Key Biodiversity Areas (blue) and areas where there is a complete no-shark fishing ban (white).

Also, by combining this information from publications, reports, scientific databases, and the experiences of individual shark experts, the scientists hope the ISRA will help governing bodies develop policies and design protected areas.

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