Sharks, mantas and rays in the Mediterranean Sea are caught more often in protected areas than in unprotected areas, according to a study released Tuesday.

These three species of fish, from the order of the elasmobranchs, are in danger throughout the world due to the excesses of the fishing industry.

Although they are often collateral victims of large-scale fishing, the fins and meat of these animals is also prized, causing a 71% decline in their presence in the oceans since the 1970s.

A third of elasmobranchs are at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A team of researchers based in Italy analyzed the catches of 1,200 fishing operations at 11 different sites, in the waters of France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Greece.

The team used statistical modeling to show that catches of these three classes of fish are taking place mostly in partially protected areas.

“It is generally assumed that large fishing vessels are the ones that damage biodiversity the most, which is true and there is a lot of evidence that indicates this,” explained Antonio Di Franco, of the Sicilian Marine Center, one of the co-authors of the study. .

“Small-scale fishing has been much less researched,” he added.

“We don’t know about small-scale fishing activity in general, we don’t know the size of their catch or where they fish,” he explained.

The researchers found that small vessels venturing into semi-protected waters (where fishing is not totally prohibited) caught up to 24 different species of sharks, mantas and rays. A third of these species are in danger of extinction.

Globally, the experts counted the capture of 517 elasmobranchs in partially protected areas, compared to 358 in unprotected areas.

The mass of sharks, rays and mantas caught in these areas was approximately twice that of the catches in unprotected areas.

More than 100 countries have committed to increasing the area of oceans under protection by up to 30% by 2030.

The team of researchers proposes that small fishing boats be equipped with GPS to monitor their activity.

“Protected areas represent great potential for biodiversity but the key is their management,” di Franco told.

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