New Shark Database Launched

The online tool contains of a wealth of information on today's most at-risk sharks.

Photo: Shown is a close-up of a lemon shark. Credit: Patrick Quinn-Graham, Wikimedia Commons

To unify shark conservation efforts worldwide, marine life experts have just launched a new database containing information on some of the planet's most threatened sharks.

The online tool, called the "Database of measures on conservation and management of sharks," also includes information on threatened skates, rays and chimaeras, which are all related to sharks. It was created by FAO-CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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In creating the tool, FAO-CITES received support from the European Union, Japan, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Kim Friedman, a senior fishery resources officer working with FAO member states on CITES issues, said, "This shark measures database is a 'one-stop shop' for those wishing to find information on shark, ray and skate guidance and management measures."

Friedman and other members of the convention just wrapped up a meeting in Rome, where new proposals concerning particular sharks and related marine life were discussed. The species included silky sharks and three species of thresher shark. All of the devil rays, one stingray, two ornamental marine fishes (Banggai cardinalfish and clarion angelfish) and all species of the mollusk nautilus were re-evaluated as well.

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The database is a work in progress, but it marks an important start toward providing current summaries of conservation and management measures, along with fact sheets, distribution maps and additional information.

The tool will mostly be used by professionals involved in the productive and sustainable management of fisheries. For the general public, however, it provides images of endangered species and interesting data on shark distribution. The entry for great white sharks, for example, shows how widely distributed populations of this species are across certain parts of the world.

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Meanwhile, the fact sheets (look for the link in some entries at the right) provide a wealth of information on everything from the shark's size to the threats it may pose to humans.

Info within the database will be checked and updated every six months.

Regarding the recent convention in Rome, votes on amendments to change official CITES measures for particular sharks and their related species will take place in another meeting, the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17). It will be held from September 24–October 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.