Endangered sharks unprotected on high seas: report

GENEVA Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:51pm EDT

Sharks are displayed at Lampulo fish market at Indonesia's Aceh province June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Tarmizy Harva

Sharks are displayed at Lampulo fish market at Indonesia's Aceh province June 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Tarmizy Harva

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Sharks, among the most endangered species of fish, are effectively unprotected in the world's oceans, the IUCN environmental organization said on Thursday.

Its report urges governments to halt shark "finning," the slicing of fins from captured sharks which are then tipped back into the sea to die, which it says is a growing industry providing ingredients for the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup.

Although finning bans have been declared in most global waters, little effort is made to enforce them, said the IUCN.

A third of shark species and their evolutionary cousins, the rays, are at risk of extinction due to overfishing, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.

The body's experts say sharks are especially sensitive to over-fishing because they take many years to mature and have relatively few young. It is vital for governments boost monitoring of boats catching them, they said.

"Sharks remain virtually unprotected on the high seas," IUCN shark specialist Sonja Fordham said in a statement.

Its report, "The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays", says that some of the best-known sharks -- the Great Hammerhead, the Great White and the Basking -- as well the Giant Ray are either endangered or vulnerable to extinction.

The study was released on the eve of a conference in Madrid of managers responsible for high seas tuna fisheries. In these operations, as in swordfish catching, sharks are taken without limit, said the IUCN, based near Geneva.

(Full text of the report: here)

(Editing by Laura MacInnis)

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