Populations of large sharks are declining in many parts of the world, including in the Mediterranean Sea where humans have been fishing for thousands of years. These sharks are threatened with extinction because of overfishing, habitat degradation, and slow recovery rates. The loss of sharks is a concern because they play crucial roles as predators in marine ecosystems. However, management is difficult because there is generally a lack of information about shark populations, especially in the Mediterranean.
Francesco Ferretti and his co-authors reconstructed population trends of large sharks over the last 200 years in the Mediterranean Sea, where some of the largest and earliest declines in sharks may have occurred. The scientists found that all species studied decreased by more than 97 percent in number and catch weight over time. Their findings suggest several Mediterranean shark species are at risk of extinction, especially if current levels of fishing pressure continue. This Lenfest Ocean Program Research Series report is a summary of the study’s findings.