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New Protections Proposed for Oceanic Whitetip Sharks


Contact: Haley McKey, 202-772-0247, hmckey@defenders.org

WASHINGTON (December 29, 2016) – The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) published a proposed regulation to protect the oceanic whitetip sharkin the Federal Register  today in response to a petition filed by Defenders of Wildlife. The regulations would give the shark threatened species status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed regulation.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife Senior Staff Attorney Jane Davenport:

“The oceanic whitetip shark is a victim of the international shark fin trade; it is also frequently killed as bycatch in other fisheries. We’ve already lost at least 70 percent of these sharks across the globe. If we don’t take immediate action, they could be wiped right off the map. Oceanic whitetip sharks are a vital part of the marine landscape and are found in all the world’s oceans. This proposal is a step towards making sure they aren’t lost forever for the sake of a delicacy.”



The oceanic whitetip shark is threatened by overfishing for their large fins, used for shark fin soup. The international shark fin trade and high rates of fisheries bycatch mortality have seriously depleted this species.  In 2013, the international community recognized this species’ serious decline by listing it under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), thus achieving a goal Defenders of Wildlife and its allies had worked towards for several years.

The oceanic whitetip shark can be found in all oceans of the world, up to depths of nearly 500 feet. The most distinguishing characteristics of the oceanic whitetip are its pectoral and dorsal fins, which are longer than those of most shark species and are white at the ends (hence the common name whitetip). This was once one of the most abundant shark species on the planet, but due to fisheries bycatch and the finning industry, has had its global population reduced by at least 70 percent, with a 98 percent loss in the Mediterranean. Like other sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks are long-lived, slow-reproducing apex predators that are vital to the health of marine ecosystems.


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.