US Congress Protect Shark Populations in US Waters- Support Science, not Sport's Interests

US Congress Protect Shark Populations in US Waters- Support Science, not Sport's Interests

September 2, 2023
Petition to
US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries
Signatures: 28Next Goal: 50
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Why this petition matters

Started by Shark Stewards

As an avid ocean enthusiast and concerned citizen, I am deeply troubled by the increasing pressure on shark populations in US waters, and the intentions behind the SHARKED Act (HR 4051, Wittman R VA) .  Supported by East Coast tournament and recreational fishermen who decry loss of their catch to sharks (so called depredation), is a thinly veiled proposal to justify hunting and killing coastal sharks.

It is disheartening to witness the disregard for these important apex predators, especially when their numbers are already declining rapidly. This petition aims to support advancing scientific research on shark populations and regulate shark catch in order to ensure their long-term survival, and not benefit small stakeholder groups with economic interests.

Sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the health and balance of marine ecosystems. They help control prey populations, prevent the spread of diseases, and contribute to overall biodiversity. However, despite their ecological importance, sharks face numerous threats such as overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change.

One particular concern is the push from recreational fishermen to open up shark fishing due to perceived losses caused by depredation (sharks taking catches). While it is understandable that fishermen may feel frustrated with these incidents, it is essential to consider the bigger picture. Many shark species are already vulnerable or endangered due to decades of exploitation. Aside from a decrease in sharks landed and catch per unit effort, most shark populations do not have a stock assessment.

Some anglers supporting the SHARKED Act are pressing for opening fishing white sharks (Charcharhinus carcharias), a protected and threatened species. Although the population is rebuilding on both coasts, this population has not recovered and remains threatened. Emotions by coastal visitors, residents and fishermen, stirred up by media, have led to calls for a cull, on white sharks despite no statistical increase in fatalities from white sharks.  Additionally evidence of take of catch not yet landed by white sharks is anecdotal and negligible.

Additionally, we conservationists are concerned for the Atlantic shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), a species currently classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population decline of this iconic apex predator can be attributed primarily to overfishing driven by high demand for its meat and fins. Responding to the decline in the East Atlantic population, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service has closed fishing for this shark  to US fishermen to allow for population recovery. This fast fighting fish is the darling of sports and tournament fishermen, who seek to open fishing under the veil of sharks stealing their fish. Opening up more opportunities for catching sharks would only exacerbate the critical situation of this and other specie's decline. 

To address the magnitude of shark predation on unlanded fish and to effectively and make informed decisions regarding sustainable management practices for sharks in US waters, we must prioritize scientific research, particularly stock assessment as well as threats. By investing in comprehensive studies on population dynamics, migration patterns, reproductive biology, and habitat requirements of different shark species within our waters – we can develop evidence-based conservation strategies that protect both sharks and human interests.

Furthermore, it is imperative that regulations governing commercial fishing activities are strengthened or implemented where necessary. Strict monitoring systems should be put in place to ensure compliance with catch limits, and penalties for illegal shark fishing must be increased to deter poaching. 

This petition supports better science and stock assessment for better management, but not with the objective to open shark fishing. By signing this petition, I urge the relevant authorities, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries, to prioritize scientific research on shark populations in US waters. I also call upon them to enact stricter regulations on shark catch, taking into account the declining populations and endangered status of certain species like the Atlantic shortfin mako shark. 

Together, let us work towards a future where sharks thrive in our oceans. By protecting these magnificent creatures, we are safeguarding not only their vital role within marine ecosystems but also preserving the natural heritage that future generations deserve.

Thank you for your support in advancing scientific research and conservation efforts for sharks in US waters, and ensuring open science and conservation interests on any Task Force appointed under HR 4051 under the SHARKED Act.

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Signatures: 28Next Goal: 50
Support now