Sharks are organisms that possess a unique value as top predators and constitute irreplaceable elements of marine ecosystems. They are considered among the oldest animals still surviving on the planet, extremely intelligent and displaying complex social behaviours and structures.
Unfortunately, contemporary narratives widely presented in popular and mainstream and cultural media, have attached an utterly negative connotation to sharks, propagating an unsubstantiated and fabricated image of them as implacable and voracious predators.
The public’s perception on sharks, their biological characteristics (low reproductive and growth rates, their long life spans, and the average 2 to 4 litter size), along with the grave threats they face due to unsustainable fisheries, pollution, and habitat degradation, have resulted in a considerable population decrease globally.
Based on the latest assessment of the IUCN about 50% of all skates and 54% of all shark species populations are facing an elevated extinction risk mainly due to overexploitation and incidental fishing that combined with their special life characteristics has bring their population to the verge of extinction.
In Cyprus, studies on the presence and biology of cartilage are scarce. About 40 species of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays, skates and chimeras) have been recorded in Cypriot waters to date.
Of these, 27 have been identified as threatened in the IUCN Red List (13 are listed as Critically Endangered, 7 as Endangered and 7 as Vulnerable).
Correspondingly in the Greek seas, at least 67 species of elasmobranchs species have been reported, with 36 listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List (17 listed as Critically Endangered, 10 as Endangered and 9 as Vulnerable).
Despite the critical condition of their populations, even today our knowledge regarding their distribution, biology and ecology throughout the Eastern Mediterranean is extremely limited.
At the international level a number of conventions and regional legislations and agreement protect different elasmobranch species.
Among those, the most important for Mediterranean species are the Barcelona Convention, the Berne Convention, the Bonn Convention, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), Regulation (EU) No. Council Regulation (EU) No 72/2016, 120/2018 and Recommendation GFCM / 42/2018/2.