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Fewer Sharks Are Being Caught—and That's Not Good News

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Fewer caught BECAUSE fewer sharks.

The good news: shark catches are down more than 20 percent from their peak in 2003. That year fishing fleets around the world netted 900,000 metric tons of sharks.

Sharks and related species such as rays and skates—collectively known as chondrichthyans—have been overfished for so long that at least 25 percent of the 1,000-plus known species are now threatened with extinction.

The past 10 years have appeared to be better for sharks. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s annual fisheries report, shark catches have been stable at 760,000 tons since 2005. That, the organization theorized, may have been because new management controls such as bans on shark finning reduced the numbers of sharks caught.

Now we come to the bad news: According to a paper published Monday in the journal Fish and Fisheries, the reason why fewer sharks are caught is just because there are fewer sharks to catch. The paper blames overfishing and coastal development as the main reasons for the decline in shark, ray, and skates and fishing practices still need to improve worldwide to protect these increasingly rare fish.

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