Experts have identified which sharks and stingrays need protection

Two Russian experts - Yury Dyldin, a scientist at the TSU Biological Institute, and Igor Volvenko, the leading researcher at the Pacific branch of VNIRO (Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography), took part in the work on the updating of the international Red Book of sharks and stingrays. Researchers from eight countries analyzed the status of species that were particularly vulnerable or on the verge of extinction. At the end of the workshop, scientists identified more than 30 members of the class of cartilaginous fish whose catch must be reduced or completely stopped.

- The initiator of the workshop was the commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Nagasaki University, - says Yury Dyldin, a scientist at the Department of Ichthyology and Hydrobiology at the TSU Biological Institute. - Experts from Japan, South Korea, the USA, Australia, Russia, Canada, China, and Taiwan were invited to the expert group. These countries were chosen because they all have access to the northwestern Pacific - the part of the Pacific Ocean where the largest stocks of commercial species are concentrated - pink salmon, herring, cod, and others, and therefore the most active fishing is carried out there. Sharks and stingrays are also very popular species for fishing, they are in demand both in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Both of them swim in the upper layers of the ocean, so they are easy to catch in fishing nets.

During the week, experts analyzed data for each country, including information not available in open sources. Scientists compared the monitoring results with global sales, databases on industrial fishing, and other indicators. The results of recent studies conducted by ichthyologists, including the first taxonomic audit of cartilaginous fish in Russia, which Yury Dyldin did in 2015, also played a significant role in assessing the state of populations.

One of the new facts that he identified during the study was that heat-loving species of sharks and stingrays have begun to appear in the northern seas of Russia, due to climate change. So, for example, in the Bering Sea, a Japanese stingray was noted, which means a shift of its usual range by several thousand kilometers.

- The amount of information for analysis was very large, so it is simply impossible to do such work by correspondence without an in-person meeting,- says Yury Dyldin. - In total, experts reviewed 237 cartilaginous fish, 136 species of them sharks and 101 species stingrays, common in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. They specified the fish range (distribution limits for this region) and fishing status and recorded new cases of capture in previously unmarked areas. As a result of the workshop, it was decided to change the Red Book status of about 30 species.

So, due to a sharp decrease in the number of Erimo skate, its protection category Least Concern will change to the status Endangered, a similar situation to that of the Kujian skate. Both species are found to a limited extent in the waters of Russia near the South Kuril Islands and the Sea of Okhotsk. According to preliminary data, several species of sharks will be included in the list of “redbooks” found in the waters of Russia, including the Japanese sea angel (a species of flat-skinned shark) and the Japanese bull shark. The decision of the commission is now at the approval stage. It will soon be posted on the website of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

The recommendations of experts on conservation of species have been submitted to the United Nations and will be taken into account by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES ). More than 100 countries are parties to this international treaty governing the issuance of fishing licenses.

The group that decided to assign or change the conservation status of cartilaginous fish included the world's leading experts. Among them was Nicholas K. Dulvy from Canada, who is a co-chair of the shark commission and one of the most cited experts in the conservation of marine biodiversity. He has published over one hundred peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the history of life and the risk of extinction of various species, the effects of fisheries on marine ecosystems, and the impact of climate change on them.

Peter M. Kyne, from Charles Darwin University (Australia), red list manager for the special shark group; Dave Ebert, director of the Pacific Shark Research Center, researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, known for having described more than 40 species of previously unexplored sharks and making great efforts to preserve the biodiversity of these predators; Atsuko Yamaguchi, professor at Nagasaki University, one of the coordinators for the conservation of cartilage fish in the North Pacific, who described several new species; and other experts also worked in the group.