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SA Sharks, Rays Face Growing Threats


The electrolux addisonii is not seen often and, never on the shelves of department stores. The marine ray’s first, or genus, name comes from the vacuum cleaner company for its sucking actions while feeding and its second, species name, from Mark Addison, the local diver who discovered it.

It’s a rare sight in its ocean home, off the KZN coast and doesn’t live anywhere beyond our horizons.

This ornate sleeper ray is among the 30% of the more than 200 species of sharks and rays in three global hotspots, which occur nowhere other than in South African waters.

Oceanographic Research Institute senior scientist Bruce Mann pointed out that viviparous sharks and rays – those that do not breed by producing thousands of eggs but give birth to live young – were vulnerable in that they breed in smaller numbers, are slow growing and mature late.

Another that falls among the 30% of the endemics is the flat-nosed hound shark, found only off the South Coast and the Pondoland Coast.

“Disturbingly 17% of these endemics are threatened and on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List,” said Jean Harris of the Hilton-based organisation Wildoceans and a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

“Important and urgent action needed to prevent further declines is the phasing out of all unselective fisheries that catch threatened sharks and rays, such as long-lines and net fisheries,” she said.

“South Africa needs to move quickly to protect essential habitats of threatened sharks and rays in no-take zones, within an expanded Marine Protected Area network that increases protection from 5% to our global commitment of 10% by 2020.”

The IUCN Species Survival Commission is the world’s largest network of species conservation experts. It is mandated by the members of IUCN – governments, NGOs, and civil society organisations – to conserve species.

This month the commission called for urgent and effective action to address the unprecedented, unsustainable and growing impacts on wild species from human activities.

“The millions of species on land, in fresh water and in the ocean have evolved over millennia and form the web of life that sustains the planet,” the IUCN commission said in a statement titled “A Call for Global Species Conservation Action”.

“Species and their populations are the building blocks of ecosystems, individually and collectively securing the conditions for life. They provide food, medicine and raw materials.

“They are the basis of soil formation, decomposition, water filtration and flow, pollination, pest control and climate regulation.

“They are the primary source of income and resources for hundreds of millions of people around the globe.”

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