Shark catch in Kesennuma, Japan. In January 2014, scientists released a study warning that one quarter of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. Photo: Shawn Heinrichs

7 February 2014 (mongabay.com) – Last month scientists released a study warning that one quarter of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.

The research, published in the open-access journal eLife on January 21, was the result of collaboration between 300 scientists from 64 countries. It concluded that overfishing is the biggest threat to the most number of species, noting that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone.

"Fins, in particular, have become one of the most valuable seafood commodities," the authors write, "It is estimated that the fins of between 26 and 73 million individuals, worth US$400-550 million, are traded each year."

This image shows a shark finning technique in which only a band of skin is retained to keep the fin attached to the spine, and the remainder of the body is discarded at sea. This method is aimed at circumventing legislation banning finning which states that the fins of the shark must be 'naturally attached' to the body. Photo: INTERPOL

The study found that large, shallow-dwelling species are most likely to be at risk, while five out of the seven most threatened chondrichthyan families are rays.

"Overall chondrichthyan extinction risk is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates, and only one-third of species are considered safe," concluded the study.

Below is a set of pictures released in conjunction with the report, as well as images published separately by WildLifeRisk after an investigation into the Chinese whale shark trade. [more]

35 pictures of the sharkfin trade that will shock and dismay you

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