The Kahu Manō -Urgent Action to Save Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

Deadsharks

Shark Stewards is petitioning Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and Fisheries Management Commissions to swap longline gear in tuna fisheries to protect endangered oceanic sharks following the example of Hawai’i and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission. These fisheries managers have agreed to swap out wire leaders for monofilament, allowing caught sharks to release themselves thereby reducing bycatch significantly. We are now urging the Inter- American Tropical Tuna Coalition )IATTC) to follow suit and eliminate take and bycatch of critically endangered pelagic sharks through substitution of wire leaders in Pacific fisheries in the Eastern Pacific.

In 2023 Shark Stewards supported a Proposed Rule providing comments for zero retention and trade of critically endangered oceanic whitetip sharks. The rule: Retention Prohibition of Oceanic Whitetip Sharks in U.S. Atlantic Waters and Hammerhead Sharks in the U.S. Caribbean Sea.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries agency (NOAA Fisheries) announced the proposed rule in 2023 to consider prohibiting the commercial and recreational retention of oceanic whitetip sharks in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and all hammerhead sharks in the large coastal shark complex in the U.S. Caribbean region. The proposed rule would add oceanic whitetip sharks to the prohibited shark species group and prohibit the commercial and recreational retention of great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks in the U.S. Caribbean region.

Shark Stewards submitted written comments in support of zero retention and swapping longline gear in RFMOS to protect endangered oceanic sharks following the example of Hawai’i and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission. These fisheries managers have agreed to swap out wire leaders for monofilament, allowing caught sharks to release themselves thereby reducing bycatch significantly.

NMFS anticipates that a proposed rule and draft environment impact statement (DEIS) for the to the five Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Councils (the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils) and the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions will be available in 2024 and the Final Amendment 16 and its related documents will be available in 2025.

In recent years, these sharks have faced significant threats from overfishing, bycatch, and habitat degradation. Efforts to protect them, such as through conservation measures, regulations, and the establishment of marine reserves, are essential for ensuring the survival and well-being of oceanic whitetip sharks and the overall health of our oceans.

These sharks, once the most abundant marine vertebrate species, have declined dramatically in the last 50 years. They are extirpated in much of their range, and have lost 90-95% of their original pre-fishing populations. With extremely high bycatch on longlines, the fins from oceanic whitetip sharks are highly coveted in Asia, representing 6% of the Hong Kong trade in one evaluation, despite CITES protection.

We call on the National Marine Fisheries Service to lead the world in increased protection for OWTs through zero retention and gear changes in the NE Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries.

 Shark Stewards is submitting written comments in support of this proposed rule to protect endangered oceanic sharks and will be attending RFMO meetings in the NE Pacific and Atlantic in 2024 to extend protections gained in the central and western Pacific for these critically endangered sharks.

Rule Passed by NOAA for Zero Retention.

A Spanish translation of this content is available here.

Owt Turnning Small

NOAA Fisheries announces a proposed rule to consider prohibiting the commercial and recreational retention of oceanic whitetip sharks in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and all hammerhead sharks in the large coastal shark (LCS) complex (great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks) in the U.S. Caribbean region.

Under the proposed rule, NOAA Fisheries would add oceanic whitetip sharks to the prohibited shark species group (effective in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea) and prohibit the commercial and recreational retention of LCS hammerhead sharks (great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks) in the U.S. Caribbean region.

Download a Free Oceanic Whitetip Shark Science Sheet

About Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

Oceanic whitetip sharks were once the most common pelagic shark throughout the world, but their numbers have suffered a sharp declined due to overfishing in a mere 30 years. This decline is a result of accidental bycatch from tuna fisheries as well as the direct targeting of the species due to the high value of their large fins to make the luxury dish shark fin soup. These charismatic large sharks have a distinctive pattern of mottled white markings on the tips of their fins, earning them their name “whitetip” sharks. This large, pelagic species of shark’s name (Carcharhinus longimanus) translates as “long hands”, not to be confused with the smaller tropical species (Triaenodon obeseous), the whitetip reef shark. These sharks were once the most commonly caught accidentally in longline fisheries, but the low value of their meat led to discarding dead, or sometimes still breathing. The high value placed on their fins has led to more sharks landed, or the body discarded and the fins retained. Now one of the most threatened sharks, one scientific estimate predicted that less than 5% of the global population remains, and as high as 99% of the population have been removed from some seas. As a result of these findings, its status on the IUCN Red List was moved to “Critically Endangered” globally.

Help save these sharks from extinction.

More Information