Feb 1

Species name: thorny skate

Nominated by: Shark Advocates International

IUCN Red List classification: Vulnerable

What is so special about your species?

Thorny skates have amazing features, support substantial fisheries, and face serious threats. Yet, they get so little love.

This fierce-looking, bottom-dwelling species has a dozen or more large thorns running down its back and tail. It’s found on both sides of the North Atlantic, with the degree of “thorniness” varying by latitude. In the UK, it’s known as the “starry ray” because the bases of its thorns are shaped like stars. Female thorny skates don’t begin laying egg cases (known as mermaids’ purses) until after age 10, and produce only about 15 viable hatchlings per year after incubation that can last three years! This species is believed to live longer than other North Atlantic skates (~30 years or more).

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Like most rays and sharks, the main threat to thorny skates is overfishing. Their slow growing lifestyle makes them inherently susceptible to it. Skates are a popular food fish (particularly in Europe), and are also killed incidentally in fisheries targeting other species. The Northwest Atlantic thorny skate population has been seriously overfished and yet the international quota set by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is significantly higher than scientists advise. In 2018, however, we have a great chance to change that! Scientists will update the thorny skate population status in June and issue fishery management advice that NAFO officials from governments all across the North Atlantic will consider in September.

What can people do to help your species?

Skates need love, seriously. As part of the Shark League, we’re working with Ecology Action Centre, Project AWARE, and Shark Trust to raise and channel the public support necessary to elevate the conservation priority of skates within governments, and secure the actions required for recovery. Concerned citizens (particularly in Canada, the EU, Norway, and the US) can help by letting policy makers know they care about thorny skates, and calling for a precautionary, science-based NAFO skate quota decision in September.

Follow #ElevateTheSkate and #SharkLeague on Twitter over the coming months to learn more and get involved. Thank you!

VOTE NOW!

 

Feb 1

Species name: shortfin mako

Nominated by: The Shark Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Vulnerable; Critically Endangered – Mediterranean

What is so special about your species?

Sleek and fast, the shortfin mako is capable of reaching speeds of over 30mph, making it the fastest shark in the world. On top of this, it has the power to leap clean out of the water, reaching heights of 9m. Its high-spec finish of brilliant metallic blue on top and clean, crisp white underneath would impress any car designer. The shortfin mako really is the supercar of the shark world. Despite these impressive features, this species is highly vulnerable. Reaching lengths of nearly 4m, this large pelagic shark matures late (18 years), is long lived (32 years) and produces just 4 – 25 pups after a lengthy pregnancy with a 2 – 3 year cycle.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Retained for their meat and fins, the shortfin mako is a valued bycatch species that has been subjected to decades of unregulated fishing. Extensive fishing coupled with their low reproductive rate has led to the severe depletion of the North Atlantic population which is now close to collapse. Even a prohibition on retention would leave just a 54% chance of population recovery by 2040.

It is a pivotal time for the shortfin mako. With the EU taking the lion’s share of this fishery, it is essential to implement the necessary measures to secure the future of this vulnerable species.

What can people do to help your species?

The Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign to stop uncontrolled shark fishing, turned its attention to the shortfin mako in 2017 by launching the Mako’ver to highlight the vulnerability of this species. To date, over 168,000 signatures of support have been collected through petitions and these have been presented to the EU Commission. As part of the Shark League coalition, the Shark Trust works with Shark Advocates International, Project Aware and Ecology Action Centre to advocate for the implementation of catch limits, including measures to stop overfishing of shortfin mako in the Atlantic. With Atlantic fishing nations now required to release live caught shortfin mako in the North Atlantic, there is a real chance to safeguard the future of this spectacular species.

Join us by causing a stir on social media and use #MakeTimeForMakos #NoLimits #NoLimitsNoFuture #Makover to bring light to the plight of this speedy shark. Keep your eyes peeled for campaign updates arising in 2018!

VOTE NOW!

 

Feb 1

Species name: blue shark

Nominated by: Hector the Blue Shark

(official spokeshark for the Ecology Action Centre)

IUCN Red List classification: Near Threatened

What is so special about your species?

Blue sharks are sleek and streamlined, zipping through the water, crossing entire oceans. As they zip around, blue sharks use proton filled jelly in their heads to detect electrical fields generated by other fish and animals in the water – even miles away. And, of course, they have unique super cool, blue tinted skin making them very recognizable.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Blue sharks are the most heavily fished shark in the world caught in many types of fisheries throughout our oceans with estimates ranging from 15-20 million caught every year. The fins of blue sharks make up the largest percentage of the global fin trade and the number of blue sharks being landed continues to rise in many areas. These amounts don’t even capture the tens of thousands of blue sharks that are hooked and cut off lines while at sea because they are unwanted catch. With some regions seeing upwards of 30% declines in population, there are increasing concerns about blue sharks and whether they can continue to withstand this amount of fishing.

Unfortunately, despite their amazingness and their important role as a widely distributed apex predator, the blue shark is often considered a pest by fishers trying to catch other more valuable species. They remain unloved and underappreciated and, as such, there are almost no limits on how many blue sharks can be caught by fisheries nor fishing controls in place that would ensure the blue shark remains throughout our oceans in the future. Ignoring proper management and conservation for such an ecologically important species, especially one so heavily impacted by human activities, should no longer be acceptable in 2018, .

What can people do to help your species?

Follow Hector the Blue Shark, the most famous blue spokeshark, in his work with friends at the Ecology Action Centre to get science-based, strict fishing limits in place for him and his blue shark kin around the world. Supporting an organization with dedicated experts that work with fisheries managers, conservationists, researchers, and governments is one of the best ways people can help blue sharks and other sharks and rays. It takes years of work and dedication to move conservation forward for these animals and organizations need your support!

The Ecology Action Centre together with partners Project Aware, Shark Trust, and Sharks Advocates International are SLAM, the Shark League of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, working for groundbreaking conservation at the international level for sharks, rays, and skates.

VOTE NOW!

 

Feb 1

Species name: spiny butterfly ray

Nominated by: Project AWARE

IUCN Red List classification: Vulnerable; Europe & Mediterranean – Critically Endangered

What is so special about your species?

Butterfly, diamond shaped, what’s not to love about this ray species? For scuba divers, getting up close and personal with rays in their natural habitat makes for an unforgettable experience. Some of the most beloved ray species are the majestic manta ray or graceful eagle ray but there are so many other rays who deserve love and attention. The spiny butterfly ray gets its name from its wide, wing-like pectoral fins and its short, sharp tail that has one or more serrated spines used to stun preys such as crustaceans, molluscs, plankton and small fishes. This very large, diamond shaped ray has a flat body and coloration which enables the little known and rarely seen creature to effectively camouflage itself in the sandy and muddy sea floor. If buried in the sand, the spiny butterfly ray will often remain motionless while divers pass. They are sometimes spotted around the popular dive destination, the Canary Islands. Rumour has it that there is one that has taken up residence in the harbour on El Hiero.

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Coastal development, pollution and disturbances caused by humans or their activities, tourism in particular, are a threat to the spiny butterfly ray shallow coastal habitat. They produce few young (1-8 depending on geographic location), making them especially vulnerable to fishing pressure and overexploitation. Noted for the quality of its wing meat and sometimes landed for human consumption, they are particularly susceptible to a range of fishing gear and commonly taken in inshore fisheries. Along the coast of West Africa, large mesh bottom gillnets are used to target the spiny butterfly ray in huge numbers. In the Mediterranean, this ray was moderately abundant but they are now very rare or absent from local catch records. In this region, the suspected population decline over the past 20 years exceeds 80%. In West Africa, abundance has declined severely and the median size has been dramatically reduced as most of the adults have been removed by fishing activities.

What can people do to help your species?

One of the best ways to help the spiny butterfly ray, and other sharks and rays of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is to support science-based shark conservation measures. NGOs like Project AWARE and its conservation partners, including Shark Advocates International, The Shark Trust and Ecology Action Center are working hard to gain increased protections for some of these lesser known species. Together, we have formed the Shark League. We advocate for ground-breaking safeguards for sharks and rays at specific Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, including GFCM – the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Our coalition is hopeful for effective collaboration in implementing science-based shark conservation measures to safeguard the Mediterranean’s exceptionally vulnerable sharks and rays, including the spiny butterfly ray.

At Project AWARE we love all shark and ray species – from the mako shark to the thorny skate, blue shark to spiny butterfly ray – all Love Species nominated this year by Shark League partners.

Follow #SharkLeague on Twitter over the coming months to learn more and get involved. Thank you!

VOTE NOW!

 

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