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Conservationists Petition Feds to Protect Dusky Shark

November 15, 2012
Taylor Jones (303) 353-1490
In This Release
Washington, DC – WildEarth Guardians petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today to list the dusky shark as “threatened”or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) both range wide and its Northwest Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico population specifically.

“Sharks, the wolves of the sea, are key strands in the ocean’s web of life,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Human exploitation and persecution are driving many shark species to the brink of extinction.”

The dusky shark is a large warm-­‐water shark that grows to an average of11.8 feet and 400 pounds. Dusky sharks inhabit both coastal and pelagic waters in their global, but “patchy,” range in the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian oceans. These sharks may live up to 33 or 40 years, but only reach maturity at an average age of 19-­‐21 years.

The dusky shark’s late maturation,comparatively short reproductive cycle, and small litter size make them especially vulnerable to overfishing. Dusky sharks are both targeted for capture and caught indirectly by fishers pursuing other species. Direct catch has increased due to increasing demand for shark fins (now estimated to be a $73billion market), primarily in Asia. This market impacts the dusky; it is considered one of the most highly desired sharks in the international fin trade. Scientists estimate that fishing has depleted 96 percent of the dusky shark’s population worldwide since 1974, and their numbers continue to decline.

Most sharks, including the dusky shark, play an important role as apex predators in maintaining ocean bio-­‐communities.Ecosystem stability and biodiversity, Congressional priorities for the ESA,could seriously suffer from the loss of these top predators. Listing under the ESA has proven an effective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99percent of plants and animals listed under the Act persist today. The law is especially important as a bulwark against the current extinction crisis; plants and animals are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA listing. Listing species with global distribution can both protect the species domestically, and help focus U.S. resources toward enforcement of international regulation and recovery of the species.