Makos and other iconic sharks are closer to the brink of extinction, warn scientists in their new assessment of the apex predator’s conservation status.

The known cause: Human appetites.

According to the latest update of the Red List of threatened animals and plants, 17 out of 58 species that has been evaluated were classified as facing extinction. The Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation had announced.

“Our results are alarming,” Nicholas Dulvy, chairperson of the grouping of 174 experts from 55 countries, told in a statement. “The sharks that are especially slow-growing, sought-after and unprotected from overfishing tend to be the most threatened.”

The shortfin mako, the fastest of all sharks and has a speed of 400 km/h to more than 70 km/h, is one of those shark species that is closer to extinction. Along with their longfin cousin, these type of sharks are highly prized in China and other Asian countries for their flesh and fins, which are used in culinary traditions.

“Today, one of the biggest shark fisheries on the high seas is the mako,” Dulvy told AFP. “It is also one of the least protected.”

Nations will vote on a proposal by Mexico whether to list the shortfin mako on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which mean it would not ban fishing or trade of shark, but would regulate it.

IUCN’s shark group is conducting a two-year review of more than 400 species of sharks.

Six of those reviewed were found critically endangered, three of which are the whitefin swellshark, the Argentine angel shark, and the smoothback angel shark. Eleven others were classified as “endangered” or “vulnerable” to extinction.

‘Way worse than thought’

Scientists say they have only established one assessment of sharks in the last 10 years, thanks to the help of tuna fisheries that tallied sharks by-catch.

“A decade on, we now know that the situation is way worse than we ever thought,” Dulvy said.

Thanks to their new findings, the Shark Specialist Group is now calling for “immediate national and international fishing limits, including complete bans on landing those species assessed as ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered,’ according to Sonja Fordham, the deputy chair of the group and an officer at The Ocean Foundation.

According to a peer-review study back in 2013, 100 million sharks were estimated to be fished every year to satisfy a market that sells its fins, meat, and even its liver oil.   

Related stories:
– About 100 sharks washed up dead, their fins ripped off
– Scientists develop new tool to track illegal trade of sharks
– Endangered sharks meat found in British menu, new study shows