Dusky shark populations are dwindling off the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and we can’t afford to let these sleek, iconic marine predators disappear forever. They are a keystone species in ocean ecosystems, but overfishing still kills thousands of dusky sharks each year. It’s time to tell the National Marine Fisheries Service that enough is enough.
Tell the Fisheries Service to protect dusky sharks and help restore balance to the Atlantic Ocean ecosystem now!
Dusky sharks are a large, impressive shark species, with adults reaching up to 12 feet in length and averaging 400 pounds. As top predators, they eat fish, rays and even other sharks, maintaining the fragile balance of ocean ecosystems.
But each year, thousands of dusky sharks die as bycatch on longlines that dangle hundreds of baited hooks and stretch for dozens of miles.
In the southeastern United States alone, commercial reef fish, snapper, grouper and other fisheries caught nearly 4,000 dusky sharks as bycatch every year between 2006 and 2010. Recreational and other commercial fisheries also catch and kill dusky sharks.
The situation for dusky sharks is so dire that the Fisheries Service estimates it will take the population at least 90 years to recover, and likely much longer if high levels of bycatch continue. Dusky sharks can’t wait that long. Urge the Fisheries Service to adopt effective measures to steward the dusky sharks’ recovery now!
Dusky populations started to plummet dramatically in the 1990s, and in 1997, the Fisheries Service identified the sharks as a “species of concern.” The agency prohibited fishermen from intentionally catching and landing dusky sharks in 2000, but didn’t put limits on dusky shark bycatch.
The law required the Fisheries Service to end overfishing of dusky sharks by 2008, but the agency still has not done so. As a result, these sharks continue to be overfished and their population is unable to rebound because too many are caught and killed as bycatch.
Yet the agency’s most recent plan addressing dusky shark management does nothing to fix these longstanding problems. Although the Fisheries Service has acknowledged that it needs to reduce dusky shark mortality by at least 35 percent and has proposed measures to rebuild the population, it’s not clear that the proposed measures will actually reduce dusky shark bycatch or mortality by the required amount. Instead, the agency is hoping that outreach and education will save the day. Without strict, enforceable limits on the amount of bycatch allowed in these fisheries, there is little hope that the dusky shark population will recover to a healthy level.
Tell the Fisheries Service to save these precious creatures before it’s too late.
December 15, 2016 Action Alert ID# 459
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