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International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks

Sharks identification tools

In comparison with bony fish the reporting of shark catches is poor. Only 36 percent of cartilaginous fish catches were identified at species or genus level, compared to more than three quarters for bony fishes. About a third of cartilaginous fishes were reported as "Sharks, rays, skates, etc. nei" and not further identified.

A poor reporting at species level is particularly true for skates and rays – a cartilaginous group for which more than three quarter of the catches were reported at highly aggregated levels (order and family). The taxonomic detail of reported to FAO of shark and ray catches, although still highly deficient, has improved over the last decade, which is evidence of increased attention to data collection.

The FAO catch statistics completely depend on the collaboration of FAO Members to faithfully collect and report their capture statistics. The fact that developing countries are still reporting shark mainly at aggregated levels indicates that there is a need for improved identification tools in many regions.