EEA Resource ArticleChondrichthyans are a relatively small (approximately 1,200 species) evolutionarily-conservative group that has functioned successfully in diverse ecosystems for over 400 million years. Despite their evolutionary success, many chondrichthyans are increasingly threatened with extinction as a result of human activities and the conservative life history traits of this group of fishes. Generally, chondrichthyans are slow growing and late to mature, with low fecundity. These characteristics result in very low rates of potential population increase with little capacity to recover from overfishing (direct or indirect) and other threats such as pollution and habitat destruction (Fowler et al. 2005).

In 2003, the IUCN World Conservation Union’s Shark Specialist Group (SSG), in collaboration with the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, established a regional group of experts to work more coherently towards improved conservation and management of chondrichthyan fishes in the Mediterranean. One of the primary aims of the group was to assess the threatened status of each chondrichthyan species that occurs in the Mediterranean by applying the IUCN Red List criteria. This work constitutes part of the SSG’s global programme to complete IUCN Red List assessments for all chondrichthyan fishes. A summary of the results of the Mediterranean
assessments is presented in this report, highlighting species of conservation concern as well as those of least concern. It is envisaged that the information contained within this report will facilitate further development and improved implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP MAP RAC/SPA 2003) and the development of priority research, conservation and management actions for the region.

This IUCN overview summarises the SSG’s full report (Cavanagh et al. in prep.), which provides an in-depth overview of regional issues and contains detailed summaries of IUCN Red List assessments for all chondrichthyan fishes that occur in the Mediterranean Sea.

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