Every year, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed by people. Many shark populations are depleting at an alarming rate and are close to danger of extinction. Sharks are vital to our oceans ecosystem and so it is extremely important we learn about these endangered species of shark and what is causing their deaths, so we can work together to find a solution.
During this Shark Week, take your time to learn about the worlds most endangered sharks and the threats that they face. Learn facts about sharks and take a look at who the real predators of the world are – Humans.
Ocean Scuba Dive count down the top 15 most endangered sharks in the world.
Most Endangered Shark Species in the World
1. Great white shark – Vulnerable
The Great White Shark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Despite its high profile media attention the Great White Shark receives, mostly due to the late films “Jaws”, there is little known about its biology. This shark species has a reputation for being a ferocious man-eater, when in reality humans are not their preferred prey. In fact, it’s us humans that are endangering Great White Sharks through overfishing and collisions with shipping vessels.
Other threats to Great White Sharks include targeted commercial and sports fisheries for jaws, fins, game records and for aquarium display; protective beach meshing; media-fanned campaigns to kill Great White Sharks after a biting incident occurs; and degradation of inshore habitats used as pupping and nursery grounds.
Read our 50 facts about great white sharks here.
2. Basking shark – Vulnerable
The Basking Shark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
This slow-moving and generally harmless shark species gets its name from basking in the shallow temperate waters to feed. The Basking Shark is a very large, filter-feeding cold-water pelagic species that are migratory and widely distributed. It is only regularly seen in a few favored coastal locations and probably never abundant.
Basking Shark fins are among the most valuable in international trade, its cartilage is used in traditional Chinese medicine or as an aphrodisiac in Japan. Although Basking Sharks are legally protected in some territorial waters, this shark species is known to be extremely vulnerable to overfishing, perhaps more so than most sharks. Based primarily on past records of rapidly declining local populations of basking sharks as a result of short-term fisheries exploitation and very slow population recovery rates, this species is currently listed as vulnerable.
3. Dusky shark – Vulnerable
The Dusky Shark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The Dusky Shark is a large wide-ranging coastal and pelagic warm water shark species. It is among the slowest-growing, latest-maturing of known sharks, bearing small litters after a long gestation period. Dusky Sharks have a slender, streamlined body and their eyes are equipped with protective third eyelids.
Because of its very low intrinsic rate of increase, this species are amongst the most vulnerable of vertebrates (including the great whales and sea turtles) to depletion by fisheries and has a high mortality rate when taken as bycatch. The Dusky Sharks fins are highly valued and used often for shark fin soup, a delicacy in some Asian countries. This shark species is now so depleted that experts at the National Marine Fisheries Service estimate that it could take from 100 – 400 years to rebuild their populations.
4. Brown Shyshark – Vulnerable
The Brown Shyshark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The Brown Shyshark is distributed along less than 1,000 km of coastline off of the coast of South Africa in the Western Atlantic Ocean. The Brown Shyshark is a small stocky shark with a broad head, and very large nostrils and appears to be highly site-specific, with a fragmented population.
Although the Brown Shyshark appears to be an abundant inshore shark, it is commonly caught by rock and surf anglers, taken as discarded bycatch in recreational fishing activities and is generally regarded as a nuisance by the fishermen. Its endemicity and very narrow nearshore distribution mean that it is imperative to monitor the abundance of the species and the health of its preferred habitat, as abundance has not been quantified and fishing related threats are potentially high. A continuous decline in the quality of the Brown Shysharks inshore habitat is inferred as a result of heavy human utilization, warranting an assessment of Vulnerable.
5. Sand Tiger Shark – Vulnerable
The Sand Tiger Shark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The Sand Tiger Shark, also commonly known as the Grey Nurse Shark, is found along sandy coastlines, continental shelves, and submerged reefs along the coasts of North and South America, South Africa, Japan, and Australia. This shark species have pointed noses and can grow to 10.5 feet in length once they reach maturity.
This shark only produces two large pups per litter and as a result, annual rates of population increase are very low, greatly reducing its ability to sustain fishing pressure. Populations in several locations have been severely depleted by commercial fishing, habitat destruction from pollution, spearfishing and protective beach meshing making them a vulnerable species of shark. The Sand Tiger Shark are protected in Australia and the United States.
6. Porbeagle Shark – Vulnerable
The Porbeagle Shark is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The Porbeagle Shark is a wide-ranging, coastal and oceanic shark. Due to its low reproductive capacity and high commercial value of mature and immature age classes makes this shark species highly vulnerable to over-exploitation and population depletion.
Although the Porbeagle shark is classified as only vulnerable worldwide, it is critically endangered in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Probeagle Shark is highly prized by sports fishermen and commercial fisheries alike due to its popularity in meat. There have been a lot of conservative efforts for this shark which have been very successful in ensuring the continuation of the species, however, the Porbeagle Shark population has not yet recovered in the North Atlantic.
7. Scalloped Hammerhead – Endangered
The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Scalloped Hammerhead is a coastal and semi oceanic hammerhead shark. Defined by its unusual hammer-shaped head, the scalloped hammerhead can be found often in schools of up to 100.
Just like many of the large coastal shark species, this hammerhead shark has seen population declines of over 95% in the last 30 years. Hammerhead shark fins are more highly valued than other species because of their high fin ray count. Given the major declines reported in many areas of the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks range, increased targeting for its high-value fins, low resilience to exploitation and largely unregulated, continuing fishing pressure from both inshore and offshore fisheries, this species is assessed as Endangered globally.
8. Whale shark – Endangered
The Whale Shark is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Whale Shark is the world’s largest shark and living fish in the world. This shark species can live up to 100 years old and grow to lengths of 40 feet. Whale sharks are filter feeders and sieve plankton through their gills for much of their nourishment.
Directed fisheries and significant bycatch fisheries have targeted areas where high densities of Whale Sharks occur, leading to rapid reductions. While there have been a number of commercial fisheries for the species closed during 1990-2000s products remain valuable and the species is still commonly caught in some countries. Serious injury and inferred mortality through vessel strike is another threat to several globally significant aggregations of the whale shark. Although the hunting of Whale Sharks is banned in some countries including the Philippines, India, and Taiwan, in the absence of conservation action, declines are likely to continue into the future.
9. Smoothback Angel Shark –Endangered
The Smoothback Angel Shark is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Smoothback Angel Shark inhabits the Southwest Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through Uruguay to Buenos Aries Province, Argentina on the continental shelf and slope at depths of 10 to 350 meters. This species of shark is known for its smooth back, hence its name.
The Smoothback Angel Sharks low reproductive potential together with its vulnerability to both trawl and gillnet gear makes it highly susceptible to population depletion. This shark species is under threat from overfishing and is now an endangered species of shark.
10. Daggernose Shark – Critically Endangered
The Daggernose Shark is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Daggernose Shark inhabits the tropical waters off of the coasts of Brazil and Trinidad. It is a small shark with a long pointed nose, large pectoral fins and grows up to around 4.9 feet. The Daggernose Shark has limiting biological parameters and a resultant low intrinsic population growth rate, which makes it highly susceptible to declines.
In the past 10 years, the population has been a 90% decrease as a result of commercial fishing for its meat and also bycatch, where the Daggernose Shark is often caught incidentally in floating gillnet artisanal fisheries. Combined with these factors, limited distribution, life history traits and dramatic population declines result in the Daggernose Shark being considered a Critically Endangered species. The IUCN believes that urgent conservation and management action is required to help this shark species.
11. Sawback Angelshark – Critically Endangered
The Sawback Angelshark is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Sawback Angelshark are found throughout the Mediterranean Sea and along the coastlines of West Africa and Southwestern Europe. This shark is identified by its row of thorns ranging from its head to its tail.
The regions where the Sawback Angelshark is inhabited are now subject to intense demeral fisheries and therefore this shark species is highly vulnerable from birth onwards to bycatch. The Sawback Angelshark is now extremely uncommon throughout most of the remainder of its range. Industrial and artisanal fishing pressure is intense and often unregulated in this region and it is suspected that this will continue at the current level or increase in the future. Because of this, the Sawback Angelshark is categorized as Critically Endangered on the basis of observed and suspected past declines and suspected future declines.
12. Striped Smooth-hound – Critically Endangered
The Striped Smooth-hound is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Striped Smooth-hound is a type of Houndshark which can be found off of the coast of Brazil and Argentina. They are known for their unique striped backs and grow to almost 5 feet in length.
In southern Brazil fishing is intense in the habitat of this demersal shark. Between 1994–1999 the Striped Smooth-hound shark species declined a massive 96% due to their nursing grounds being in a popular fishing area. The fishery killed so many mothers and pups from this population that Striped Smooth-hound shark is now critically endangered. There is currently serious concern regarding further declines in the absence of conservation and enforced management measures.
13. Pondicherry Shark – Critically Endangered
The Pondicherry Shark is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Pondicherry Shark was known to live in the Indian Ocean stretching from the Gulf of Oman to the coastal waters of New Guinea. This unique shark grows to about 3.3 feet in length and has a pointed snout and black tipped fins. This very rare Indo-West Pacific species is known from about 20 specimens in museums. The Pondicherry Shark has not been seen since 1979, and may already be extinct.
This shark species has become critically endangered due to the heavy and unregulated fishing within its region. The IUCN has therefore placed the Pondicherry Shark on the critically endangered list and has made finding existing populations a high priority for conservation.
14. Ganges Shark – Critically Endangered
The Ganges Shark is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
This species of shark is a true river shark living in the freshwater of the Ganges, Hooghly, Mahanadi, and Brahmaputra Rivers in India. The Ganges Shark is small and brown with a blunt nose, the shark grows to a maximum of 6.8 feet. According to the IUCN Red List, the Ganges Shark appears to be restricted to a very narrow band of habitat that is heavily impacted by human activity.
The Ganges Shark is threatened by overfishing, habitat degradation from pollution, increasing river utilization and management, including construction of dams and barrages (Compagno 1997). After being listed by the IUCN as critically endangered, the Indian government banned Ganges Shark fishing.
15. Northern River Shark – Critically Endangered
The Northern River Shark is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Northern River Shark inhabits to coastal areas along Australia and New Guinea and as a shark species, it is presumably very rare. The Northern River shark measures around 8.2 feet in length and has a stocky body with a high back.
According to the IUCN, the population of this shark is fewer than 250 mature individuals and no subpopulation contains more than 50 mature individuals. This shark is currently threatened by bycatch in commercial and recreational fishing activities and by possible habitat degradation. It has been said that future sampling may reveal this species to be more abundant than currently known. However, until a time when its abundance can be proven to be greater than current levels, the species is classified as Critically Endangered.
Listed above are just some of the many species of shark that are facing the threat of extinction. One of the most important things we can do is to understand the pressures and threats that these populations of shark face, and learn what we can do to help protect them.
Let’s support the conservation efforts by the IUCN and other organizations around the world and pressure our local governments to take action and stop the activities that threaten these sharks. Together, we can work towards a world where sharks are never near to extinction.