More than a quarter of shark and ray species found in the north east Atlantic are threatened with extinction, conservationists have warned.
An assessment of the region’s sharks, rays and chimaeras by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found seven per cent of species were critically endangered, while another seven per cent were endangered.
Most at risk include the porbeagle shark, the common skate, deepwater sharks and spiny dogfish.
The IUCN said shark species, which are largely under pressure from overfishing, were much more threatened in the north east Atlantic than globally.
Some 26 per cent of species are threatened in the region, compared to 18 per cent globally, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessment found.
And the figure could be even higher, as there was insufficient data to assess more than a quarter of the region’s sharks, rays and chimaeras.
Claudine Gibson, lead author of the report for the IUCN’s shark specialist group, said:
‘From angel sharks to devil rays, north east Atlantic populations of these vulnerable species are in serious trouble, more so than in many other parts of the world.
‘Most sharks and rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing because of their tendency to grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.
‘Those at greatest risk in the north east Atlantic include heavily fished large sharks and rays, like porbeagle and common skate, as well as commercially valuable deepwater sharks and spiny dogfish.’
The scientists from the IUCN shark specialist group said over-exploitation – either fishing for the sharks deliberately or catching them accidentally while fishing for other species – was the biggest cause of decline in the north east Atlantic.
The conservation group, along with wildlife organisation Shark Alliance, called for European countries to take steps to protect the threatened species.
Currently the UK and Sweden are the only countries in the region to provide full national protection for certain shark and ray species, the IUCN said.