This report from the IUCN Shark Specialist Group includes the first compilation of conservation status assessments for the 282 chondrichthyan species (sharks, rays, and chimaeras) recorded from North American, Central American, and Caribbean waters. The status and needs of those species assessed against the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria as threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable) are highlighted. An overview of regional issues and a discussion of current and future management measures are also presented. A primary aim of the report is to inform the development of chondrichthyan research, conservation, and management priorities for the North American, Central American, and Caribbean region.
Sharks and their relatives, including skates, rays, and chimaeras, are collectively termed chondrichthyan fishes (class Chondrichthyes). The skates and rays are known as batoids (superorder Batoidea) while the batoids and sharks together comprise the elasmobranchs (subclass Elasmobranchii).
The chondrichthyans are a relatively small (~1,150 described species), evolutionarily conservative group that has functioned successfully in diverse marine and aquatic ecosystems for over 400 million years. Despite their evolutionary success, many species are increasingly threatened with overexploitation as a result of their life history traits and the activities of humans.