The endangered status sharks and rays in the Mediterranean Sea was highlighted by the IUCN study, ‘Red List 2007 Assessment of the conservation status of cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyans) in the Mediterranean’. The study shows that although the Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea, it hosts a diverse range of chondrichthyan – an estimated 80 species, comprising 45 species of sharks. At the heart of the Mediterranean region, Italy hosts 43 species of shark. The IUCN study found that the region has the highest percentage of threatened sharks and rays in the world. Around 42% of the 71 species evaluated are included on the Red List of endangered species (under the categories ‘Critically Threatened’, ‘Endangered’ or ‘Vulnerable’). The main threat to their survival is fishing, both commercial and leisure, in several bordering countries and in Italian seas in particular.
In line with the European Plan of Action for Cartilaginous Fishes, which was approved in 2009, this LIFE+ Biodiversity project aims to contribute to the conservation of cartilaginous fishes, particularly basking sharks and pelagic stingrays, in Italian seas by reducing the mortality rate caused by commercial and leisure fishing.
The project will promote the use of low-impact fishing devices for pelagic stingrays (circle hooks), develop a system to reduce accidental capture of basking sharks, implement a ‘tag and release’ policy for fishing tournaments, and carry out tailored training for fishermen, veterinarians and coast guard personnel who oversee controls on fishing.