Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks Declared Overfished in U.S. Atlantic

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SAI News Release
Media contact: Liz Morley: 843.693.5044

Federal agency concurs with estimate of 83% population decline, triggering new measures

Washington, DC. April 28, 2011. Shark Advocates International is highlighting a new National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determination that U.S. Atlantic scalloped hammerhead sharks are overfished and subject to excessive fishing pressure. Scientists estimate that the population has declined by more than 80% from its original size. Under federal law, NMFS now has two years to develop and implement a plan to end overfishing and rebuild the population.

"We welcome the government's long-awaited determination about the population status of scalloped hammerhead sharks and are eager for the next steps toward safeguarding this exceptionally vulnerable species," said Shark Advocates International President, Sonja Fordham, a member of the NMFS Advisory Committee for highly migratory fish and a longtime proponent of hammerhead shark protection. "We urge the fisheries service to treat needed hammerhead conservation measures as top priorities."

Scalloped hammerhead sharks are among the most threatened of the world's highly migratory shark species. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classifies the species as Endangered globally. Hammerhead fins are prized for use in shark fin soup, an Asian celebratory dish. Moreso than many other shark species, hammerheads tend to die quickly when caught on fishing lines or in nets. Most are dead before they make it to the boat, whether or not fishermen intend to keep them.

An independent assessment published in 2009 found that the U.S. Atlantic scalloped hammerhead shark population in 2005 was less than half the level associated with sustainable, long-term fishing, and that catches at the time were too high to allow the population to recover within 10 years. NMFS has determined that this assessment is a complete and appropriate basis for management action.

Shark Advocates International is calling for a prohibition on retaining hammerheads (in order to remove all incentive to catch them), along with additional fishing modifications to prevent their incidental capture (given their low chances for survival).

Shark Advocates International (SAI) is a project of The Ocean Foundation established to provide leadership in advancing sound policies for sharks and rays. Based on nearly 20 years of shark conservation achievement, SAI works to secure science-based limits on shark fishing and trade, protection for endangered species, and stronger bans on shark finning.

Great Hammerhead
Great Hammerhead