Every year, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed by people. Many shark populations are depleting at an alarming rate and are close to the danger of extinction as are too many sea animals.
Sharks are vital to the ecosystem of our oceans and so it is extremely important we learn about these sharks that are endangered and what is causing their deaths, so we can work together to find a solution as sadly it is not down to nature.
15 of the Most Endangered Shark Species in the World
During Shark Week, take the time to learn about what shark species are endangered and the threats that these animals face, such as shark overfishing in our oceans. Learn facts about sharks, sharks habitats, and take a look at who the real predators of the world are – let’s face it, the fact is it is us, Humans.
Here we will try and answer the question of what kinds of sharks are endangered and how many species of sharks are endangered. Ocean Scuba Dive count down the top 15 most endangered type of shark in the world.
1. Great white shark – Vulnerable
The Great White Shark is Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Despite its high profile media attention the endangered Great White shark receives, mostly due to the late films “Jaws” and news about shark attacks, there is little that we know about its biology. This 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 making these, one of the sharks endangered species through overfishing and collisions with shipping vessels.
When people think about how many shark species are endangered most won’t put this on their list, but the decline in the shark population of the Great Whites is already occurring and it is facing threats of being targeted commercially, this also includes sports fishing for their jaws, the shark fin, game records, and also for aquarium display.
But the threats don’t stop there, they are also victims of protective beach meshing, media-fanned campaigns to kill this species after a biting incident and degradation of inshore habitats which are used as pupping and nursery grounds which all mean that their status is at risk.
Read our 50 facts about Great White sharks here.
2. Basking shark – Endangered
The Basking Shark is currently Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
This slow-moving and generally harmless type gets its name from basking in shallow temperates where they like to feed. They are a very large size, of filter-feeding cold-water pelagic shark type species and are migratory and widely distributed. It is only regularly seen in a few favored coast locations and probably never abundant due to the decline in shark population.
Why are sharks endangered? Sadly for these shark types, it is because their fins are among the most valuable within international trade, and the cartilage is used for traditional Chinese medicines or sometimes as an aphrodisiac in countries like Japan.
Although these types of sharks are legally protected in some territorial waters, they are known to have an extremely precarious status and are now one of the sharks on the endangered species list due to overfishing amongst other things perhaps more so than most sharks. Based primarily on past records of rapidly declining local populations as a result of short-term fisheries exploitation and very slow population recovery rates.
3. Dusky shark – Vulnerable
The Dusky Shark is currently Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
These are a large wide-ranging coast and pelagic warm water species. It is among the slowest-growing, latest-maturing, bearing small litters after a long gestation period so sadly nature is not helping the status of vulnerable. They have a slender, streamlined body to help them move throughout the waters. Weirdly, their eyes are equipped with a protective third eyelid.
Because of its very low intrinsic rate of increase, they are amongst the most at risk of vertebrates (including the great whales and sea turtles) to depletion by fisheries and has a high mortality rate when taken as bycatch.
Their fins are highly valued and often used for shark fin soup, a delicacy in some Asian countries which places them at risk. They are now so depleted that experts from the National Marine Fisheries Service have estimated that they could take anywhere from 100 – 400 years to rebuild their population.
4. Brown Shyshark – Vulnerable
The Brown Shyshark is currently Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
The Brown Shyshark species live along less than 1,000 km of coastline off of the coast of South Africa in the Western Atlantic Ocean. They are a small stocky shark with a broad head, and very large nostrils and appear to be very site-specific, with a fragmented population.
Although they appear to be an abundant inshore species, 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 their 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 Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Also commonly referred to as the Grey Nurse Shark, it is found along sandy coastlines, continental shelves, and submerged reefs along the coasts of North and South America, South Africa, Japan, and Australia. They have pointed noses and can grow to 10.5 feet in length once they reach maturity.
Only producing two large pups per litter, annual rates of the population increase are very low, greatly reducing its ability to sustain fishing pressure putting them in the percentage of sharks that are at risk. Populations in several locations have been severely depleted by commercial fishing habitat destruction from pollution, spearfishing, and protective beach meshing putting them at risk and they have now been listed as Critical on the IUCN List. The Sand Tigers are protected in Australia and the United States.
6. Porbeagle Shark – Vulnerable
The Porbeagle Shark is currently Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
These are wide-ranging, coastal, and oceanic. Due to its low reproductive capacity and high commercial value of mature and immature age classes put these are at extreme risk to over-exploitation and population depletion.
Although they are classified as only vulnerable worldwide, it is critical in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Porbeagle is highly prized by sports fishermen and commercial fisheries alike due to the popularity of its meat. There have been a lot of conservative efforts for this species which have been very successful in ensuring the continuation of the species, however, their population has not yet recovered in the North Atlantic.
7. Scalloped Hammerhead – Endangered
The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark is currently Critically Endangered (CE) on the IUCN Red List.
These are a coastal and semi oceanic Hammerhead. Defined by its unusual hammer-shaped head, the scalloped hammerhead can often be found in schools of up to 100.
Just like many of the larger coastal species, they have seen population declines of over 95% in the last 30 years. Hammerhead fins are much more highly valued than other species due to their high fin count.
This species has now been assessed as Critical globally for many reasons. Both increased targeting for their high-value fins and rising fishing pressure from offshore and inshore fishing which continue to be largely unregulated.
8. Whale shark – Endangered
The Whale Shark is Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
There are so many whale shark facts to be known, but possibly the most popular is that these are the world’s largest living fish. Whale sharks 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.
One of the reasons for the rapid reductions to the whale sharks is due to direct fishing, often being victims of bycatch in high-density areas of them. Although many commercial fisheries have closed during the 1990-2000s, their products still remain valuable, which is why they are still commonly caught in some countries around the world.
Due to their large size, these are often seriously injured and sometimes killed by vessel strikes, causing this to be another global threat for them. Although the hunting of these sharks is banned in some countries including the Philippines, India, and Taiwan, many fisheries continue to hunt this amazing species. Without conservation action, it’s species will continue to decline.
9. Smoothback Angel Shark –Endangered
The Smoothback Angel Shark is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The Smoothback Angel 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 is known for its smooth back, hence its name.
Their low reproductive potential together with its vulnerability to both trawl and gillnet gear makes it highly susceptible to population depletion. These are seriously under threat from overfishing and are now at CE status on the IUICN list.
10. Daggernose Shark – Critically Endangered
The Daggernose Shark is Critically Endangered (CE)on the IUCN Red List.
The Daggernose inhabits the tropical waters off of the coasts of Brazil and Trinidad. It is a small species with a long pointed nose, large pectoral fins, and grows up to around 4.9 feet. They have 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 seen a 90% decrease as a result of commercial fishing for its meat and also from being bycatch, where they are often caught incidentally in floating gillnet artisanal fisheries. Combined with these factors, limited distribution, life-history traits, and dramatic population declines result in them being considered a CE species.
The IUCN believes that urgent conservation and management action is required to help this species. So if you have wondered what is the most endangered shark then this is high up there.
11. Sawback Angelshark – Critically Endangered
The Sawback Angelshark is Critically Endangered (CE) on the IUCN Red List.
The Sawback Angels are found throughout the Mediterranean Sea and along the coastlines of West Africa and Southwestern Europe. This species is identified by its row of thorns ranging from its head to its tail.
The regions where they inhabit are now subject to intense demersal fisheries and therefore they are prone from birth onwards to being bycatch. They are 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, they are categorized as CE on the basis of observed and suspected past declines and suspected future declines.
12. Striped Smooth-hound – Critically Endangered
The Striped Smooth-hound is Critically Endangered (CE) 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 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 they are now CE on the endangered status of sharks list. 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 Critically Endangered (CE) on the IUCN Red List.
Pondicherry shark facts! This species is known to live within the Indian Ocean, particularly in the marine waters which stretch from the Gulf of Oman right up to the coast of New Guinea. The Pondicherry can grow to around 3.3 feet in length and is easily spotted by its pointed snout and black-tipped fins.
This very rare Indo-West Pacific species is known from about 20 specimens in museums. The Pondicherry has not been seen since 1979, and may already be extinct.
They have become critical due to the heavy and unregulated fishing trade within its region. The IUCN has therefore placed the Pondicherry on the CE list. They have also decided to make finding existing populations on the Pondicherry a high-priority conservation action which is good news.
14. Ganges Shark – Critically Endangered
The Ganges Shark Critically Endangered (CE) on the IUCN Red List.
This species of sharks is a river shark that lives in the freshwater of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Hooghly, and Brahmaputra Rivers found in India. They are small and brown with a blunt nose, they grow to a maximum of 6.8 feet.
According to the IUCN List, they appear to be restricted to a very narrow band of habitat which continues to be heavily impacted by human activity.
These are yet another shark threatened by overfishing, habitat degradation from pollution, increasing river utilization and management, including the construction of dams and barrages (Compagno 1997). After they were listed by the IUCN as CE, India’s government banned shark fishing within the Ganges river.
15. Northern River Shark – Critically Endangered
The Northern River Shark is Critically Endangered (CE) on the IUCN List.
These inhabit coastal areas along Australia and New Guinea and are listed as CE on the endangered sharks list and are therefore now very rare. They measure around 8.2 feet, have a stocky-like body, and are recognized by their high back.
According to the IUCN, the population is fewer than 250 mature individuals and no subpopulation contains more than 50 mature individuals. They are threatened by by-catch in commercial and recreational fishing activities and by possible habitat degradation.
It has been said that future sampling may reveal these to be more abundant than is known at present. However, until a time when its abundance percent can be proven to be greater than current levels, they are classified as CE status.
Listed above are just some of the many great creatures 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 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 wonderful creatures. Together, we can work towards a world where sharks are never near to extinction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frightening isn’t it!!! The percent of these animals that are at risk is growing all the time. Below we will attempt to answer some of the questions that people ask most, unfortunately, the answers are not always definite.
How many shark species are there?
If you have been pondering over how many species of sharks there in our oceans you won’t be on your own. There is, however, not a definite answer but the general consensus seems to be between 450 – 500 types of sharks that have been discovered and that we know about, we often wonder how many species of sharks are there that have yet to be discovered.
How many sharks are in the ocean is not a question that is possible to answer due to the fact that a study to calculate this would be all but impossible.
What is the most extinct shark?
Sadly the most extinct shark is not a specific kind of shark, as there are so many now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN List and that is without the ones listed as endangered or vulnerable.
But the megalodon is probably the most famous of all the extinct sharks because of films like The Meg and other depictions on the Discovery Channel during Shark Week.
What sharks are endangered?
Which sharks are endangered is not a pleasant thought as there are an awful lot of them now. The IUCN list of endangered sharks does not make for good reading and a lot of sharks extinction is going to happen if things do not change.
The Pondicherry, The Dumb Gulper, The Daggernose, Angel, Great Hammerhead, and the Basking shark are all critically endangered sharks species and that is just a few.
What percent of sharks are endangered?
The percentage of shark species that are endangered and are sharks that have the misfortune to be sharks on the IUCN endangered list is approximately 30% at the moment. But this list is sadly increasing at a rate that will see some types of shark become extinct.