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A black-tip shark near Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 10. Photo: Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

The number of oceanic sharks and rays has declined 71% globally over the last 50 years, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The study finds that fishing prohibitions and catch limits "are urgently needed to avert population collapse" and avoid ecological disruption.

What they found: 24 of the 31 total species of sharks and rays are currently at risk of extinction, AP reports, while scalloped hammerhead sharks, great hammerheads and oceanic whitetip sharks are critically endangered.

What they're saying: “You drop a fishing line in the open ocean, and often it’s sharks that are there first — whether or not they’re the primary target,” marine biologist Stuart Sandin told the AP, in reference to the study.

  • “When you remove top predators of the ocean, it impacts every part of the marine food web,” Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the Nature study, told AP.
  • “Sharks are like the lions, tigers and bears of the ocean world, and they help keep the rest of the ecosystem in balance.”

Go deeper

37 mins ago - World

COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming

Recreated from Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant. Now data out of South Africa may serve as a warning of what we're facing.

Driving the news: South Africa recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday with 22.4% of tests coming back positive — up from an average of about 300 new cases, with a 2% test positivity rate 10 days earlier. The country's top public health officials expect that exponential rise to continue as Omicron rapidly becomes the dominant variant.

BuzzFeed to go public, after shareholders approve SPAC deal

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is set to become publicly traded on Monday, after shareholders of a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners voted to approve a previously-announced merger.

Yes, but: The vast majority of the money the SPAC raised in January was yanked, a signal that investors aren't very optimistic about BuzzFeed's future prospects.

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.