03:27 PM

Defenders of Wildlife Calls for New Shark Protections


April 23, 2015

Contact: Melanie Gade: mgade@defenders.org (202) 772-0288

Defenders of Wildlife Calls for New Shark Protections

WASHINGTON–Defenders of Wildlife has petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list two shark species, the smooth hammerhead shark and the bigeye thresher shark, under the Endangered Species Act.

The smooth hammerhead shark is threatened by commercial fishery bycatch, shark finning and ocean pollution. This shark can be found worldwide, but has experienced a 91% decline in its population in the Northwest Atlantic and at least a 64% decline off the coast of California. The bigeye thresher shark has declined at least 80% in the Northwest Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, and is also highly threatened by bycatch. This species is also targeted for sport fishing in parts of the United States.

The smooth hammerhead shark and the bigeye thresher shark are listed as a vulnerable species worldwide by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species.

“Both of these species are being driven to extinction by the fishing industry. The National Marine Fisheries Service needs to take these threats seriously and make sure these incredibly unique sharks survive for future generations,” said Jay Tutchton, senior staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “These top predators are a vital part of their ocean habitat and it’s critical that we protect them now before it’s too late.”

Both sharks face challenges for recovery due to their slow growth and low rates of reproduction, and existing national and international protections don’t protect them adequately because they are focused on releasing captured sharks, instead of preventing them from being caught in the first place. Both sharks have poor survival rates when released after capture. Defenders of Wildlife is petitioning for protections to reduce bycatch and prevent the unnecessary deaths of these vulnerable ocean predators.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @defendersnews.