Headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the “gold standard” for measuring how close animal and plant species are to going extinct. Each year, a revised list of such species is released at the union’s annual congress.

While tuna appear to be on a road to recovery after being fished to the edge of extinction, the latest report indicates that almost four in ten sharks are now threatened with extinction.

IUCN Director General, Dr Bruno Oberle summed up the findings during the event: “The news is a ‘powerful sign’ that despite increasing pressure on our oceans, species can recover, if states commit to sustainable practices.”


Fishing is one of the greatest threats facing many shark species. Surprisingly, most sharks are killed only for their fins, which are used as a medicinal product in China and as a delicacy in Japan. Reports indicate that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for that purpose alone.

For those who are keeping score, the angelshark (Squatina squatina) has the tragic distinction of being the most endangered shark. The rare aquatic creature has lived in the coastal waters of Western Europe and Northern Africa for thousands of years. Sadly, high demand for angelshark meat led to over fishing, which caused the decimation of the population.

A Gray Angelshark Lying in Wait of Prey on the Ocean Floor
Douglas Klug / Getty Images

Over the past 45 years, global angelshark populations are estimated to have declined by 80-90%.

The Great White, the species made famous and feared by the film Jaws, has seen a similar decline. Global populations have been declining overall by an estimated 30% to 49% over the past 150 years.

With the news comes some mixed feelings as a beach-goer. Leave us a comment to tell us what you think. Are you sad to hear about the decline in sharks – or do you possibly feel a bit more likely to swim out farther at the beach than before you read this article?

Before reaching a decision, take a look at this video titled What If There Were No Sharks?