According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the list of endangered shark species is shockingly long. So if you have wondered, “are sharks endangered?” the answer is definitely “yes.” The IUCN uses three classifications for endangered species: vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered. The number of shark species that fall into either of these classifications is so great, reaching several dozens, that we will limit ourselves here to the 10 that are deemed critically endangered.
Critically Endangered Angel Sharks
The Angel Sharks belong to the genus called Squatina. They are unusual sharks in that their bodies are flattened out, making them resemble rays. They are typically around 1.5 m (5 ft) long and live in shallow waters in temperate and tropical zones worldwide. They hunt by stealth, burying themselves in the sand and snapping up passing fish and other sea creatures. There are 21 recognized species of Angel Sharks, and of those 3 are critically endangered: the Angelshark, the Smoothback Angelshark, and the Sawback Angelshark.
Why Are These Angel Sharks Endangered?
The main threat to the Angel Sharks is fishing. As fishing for bottom-feeding fish increased, the Angel Sharks would increasingly get caught in the nets. This has been especially true in the Mediterranean Sea, where all 3 species of Angel Shark used to be common but are now completely depleted. Apart from being caught accidentally in nets, deliberate fishing of Angelsharks gained steam beginning in the late 70s along the California coast. This increased the take of Angelsharks by fishermen from virtually nothing in 1977 to an estimated 90.000 sharks in 1985.
Among Houndsharks, One Is Critically Endangered
We are talking about the Striped Smooth-hound Shark. This is a fairly small shark, ranging in length from 0.7 to 1.5 m (2.3 to 5 ft). Its shape is slender and elegant, and as the name suggests, it has distinct, vertical stripes. The natural habitat of the Striped Smooth-hound is the western Atlantic coast from southern Brazil to northern Argentina. Like the Angel Sharks, the Smooth-hound lives near the bottom of the sea, and has been severely depleted from being caught in nets meant to catch bottom-feeding fish. Especially the young sharks are at risk, because the shark breeds in shallow waters, where fishing is more intense.
The Natal Shyshark, Another Critically Endangered Shark
This shark has an unusually limited natural habitat, occurring only in a small area off the coast of South Africa, near Durban. It lives in shallow waters and stays close to the bottom of the sea. The Shyshark is a small shark, belonging to the catshark family, with an average size of only 0.5 m (1.75 ft). It is long and slender with a broad head and white spots against a dark background. This shark is threatened both by coastal development that is depleting its habitat, and by shrimp fishing, once again getting inadvertently caught in nets.
Daggernose Shark – Critically Endangered
The Daggernose is a smallish shark at 1.5 m (5 ft), with an elongated head. It belongs to the requiem family of sharks. The snout is so long and pointy that it looks like a dagger, which is how the shark got its name. It lives in shallow, muddy waters along the coast of the northeastern part of South America, from Trinidad to northern Brazil. The Daggernose feeds on small fish and is completely harmless to humans. It is caught for food and also gets caught by accident in nets meant for other fish. This is the main reason why it has become endangered.
Pondicherry Shark, Another Endangered Requiem Shark
This shark, another member of the requiem family, is extremely rare. Its natural habitat is in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and like the Bull Shark, it can enter freshwater. Small and stocky, with a classic shark shape, it doesn’t grow much over 1 m (3 ft). No specimen of this shark has been recorded since 1979, leading to it being put on the critically endangered list. Unregulated fishing has increased in the area where it was previously found, and as with most of the other sharks on the list, this is the main threat it faces.
The Endangered River Sharks
3 river sharks are on the IUCN list of critically endangered sharks: the Ganges River Shark, the Irrawaddy River Shark, and the Northern River Shark. However, some argue that the Irrawaddy River Shark should be considered the same as the Ganges River Shark, which would make it “only” 2 species of river shark qualifying as critically endangered. The river sharks are unusual in that they are freshwater sharks. They range in size from 1.4 m to 2.6 m (4.6 ft to 8.5 ft), depending on the species. Their eyes and sensory systems are adapted to hunting for prey in waters with poor visibility. The river sharks are threatened by fishing, but also by pollution and dam construction.
Why Are Sharks Endangered?
Many people are frightened by sharks and consider sharks a serious threat against humans. The sad fact is that in the case of many species of sharks, it is really the other way around. The sharks are under serious threat from the activities of humans. The most serious threat for the critically endangered sharks is fishing, whether on purpose or by accident, but also various side effects of human activity, like pollution and other degradation of their habitats. So the main answer to “why are sharks endangered?” is that human activity threatens them.