VNACOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A quarter of the world's cartilaginous fish, namely sharks and rays, face extinction within the next few decades through overfishing, Canadian scientists say.
That's the conclusion of the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which conducted a study to systematically and globally assess the fate of sharks and rays.
While previous studies have documented local overfishing of some populations of sharks and rays, the new study shows one-quarter of 1,041 known shark, ray and chimaera species globally fall under three threatened categories on the IUCN Red List.
"We now know that many species of sharks and rays, not just the charismatic white sharks, face extinction across the ice-free seas of the world," study leader Nick Dulvy of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver said. "There are no real sanctuaries for sharks where they are safe from overfishing."
Sharks and rays are at substantially higher risk of extinction than many other animals and have the lowest percentage of species considered safe, the study found.
"A whole bunch of wildly charismatic species is at risk. Rays, including the majestic manta and devil rays, are generally worse off than sharks," the researcher wrote in a report of their study in the journal eLife.
"Unless binding commitments to protect these fish are made now, there is a real risk that our grandchildren won't see sharks and rays in the wild."