Endangered species are hunted more in Mediterranean reserves! | climate change | DW

Endangered sharks and rays are caught in the Mediterranean Sea more often from protected than unprotected sites, according to a study published Tuesday (August 9, 2022) in the journal Nature Communications, highlighting the role of small fishing boats.

These animal species are among those most at risk of extinction due to overfishing. Although sharks and rays are often caught by mistake after being caught in the nets of boats looking for other fish, the demand for their meat and fins has caused their numbers in the oceans to decline by about 71% since 1970. Despite dozens of countries banning the hunting of the endangered sharks and rays. It is widely exploited, but 90% of its global catch is associated with small boats that catch this species by mistake.

A group of Italian researchers wanted to get a better picture of the status of species in partially protected areas in the Mediterranean, where fishing is legal with certain controls. To achieve their goal, the researchers recorded animals caught in boats as they arrived in ports, then created a database of small catches at 11 locations in France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Greece, and then subjected them to analysis.

Using statistical models, the research team proved that the number of endangered animals caught in partially protected areas (517 animals) is higher compared to the numbers caught in unprotected areas (358 animals). Among these animals, 24 species of sharks and rays are endangered. After the team weighed the animals, it was found that sharks and rays caught in partially protected areas weighed twice as much as those in unprotected areas. The result explains that these species prefer to live in coastal waters where most fishermen prefer to work.

“Most people assume that large fishing vessels affect biodiversity, and that’s a valid idea,” said Antonio Di Franco, one of the authors of the study at the Sicilian Maritime Center, noting that there is “little research on the impact of small-scale fishing.” We do not know the details of the activities of the artisanal fishermen, not even the number of nets they actually use, nor in which areas they fish.

More than a hundred countries have pledged to increase the area of ​​the world’s protected oceans by 30% by 2030. Antonio Di Franco believes that countries can equip small fishing boats with GPS devices and ensure that protected areas are interconnected, allowing species to more easily change where they swim.

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