WASHINGTON- Today, in response to an Oceana lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to develop a new rule to end the overfishing of dusky sharks in U.S. waters. Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have plummeted by 85 percent in the past two decades as a result of overfishing and bycatch – the capture of non-target fish and ocean wildlife. In the settlement finalized today, the Fisheries Service has agreed to release a proposed regulation to protect dusky sharks by October 14, 2016. The public will have 60 days to review this proposal, and a final rule willl be published by March 31, 2017.
Despite the federal government acknowledging that dusky sharks were severely depleted nearly twenty years ago, the northwest Atlantic population is still being overfished today, in violation of federal law. As many as 75,000 dusky sharks may have been caught as bycatch since they were officially prohibited from being targeted in 2000, leaving their populations struggling to recover.
Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder released the following statement:
“It is long past time the government gets serious about its obligation to protect dusky sharks and to bring back this important species. The Fisheries Service has acknowledged for years that dusky sharks are in serious trouble, yet this population is still being overfished due to federal inaction.
Very few people are aware of the decimation of dusky sharks happening right off our coasts. Oceana decided to sue the government last year to compel the Fisheries Service to do its job and to get these sharks the attention they deserve.
Now, the federal government has finally recognized its responsibility to take action to recover this population, and we have a clear timeline for a new rule to rebuild dusky shark populations to healthy levels. We urge the Fisheries Service to propose the strongest possible conservation and management measures this fall.”
Earthjustice attorney, Andrea Treece, who represented Oceana, released the following statement:
“This agreement marks the first step in gaining much-needed protections for the dusky shark. We need to prevent these remarkable predators from being killed as wasteful bycatch and help them recover to the point where they can fulfill their role in maintaining a balanced, healthy ocean ecosystem.”
Dusky sharks grow slowly and have low reproductive rates, rendering the species highly vulnerable to overfishing. Almost 4,000 dusky sharks are snagged every year in fishing gear meant to catch other species such as grouper, snapper, swordfish and other sharks. Many of these dusky sharks – as much as 80 percent – die by the time they are hauled to the boat and tossed overboard.
Oceana thanks EarthJustice, who represented Oceana in this case.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to save dusky sharks, please visit www.oceana.org/Dusky.
For more information about Earthjustice’s efforts to protect sharks and other vital parts of healthy ocean ecosystems, please visit http://earthjustice.org/the-wild/oceans.