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WildEarth Guardians News

For immediate release: January 23, 2010

Contact: Nicole Rosmarino, Ph.D., Wildlife Program Director, 505-699-7404, [email protected]

Shark Petition Could Result in First Federally Protected Shark
Porbeagle Shark Effort Part of “On the Prowl Week” by WildEarth Guardians

Denver, CO—Jan. 20. WildEarth Guardians today filed a scientific petition requesting listing (protection) for the Porbeagle Shark under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). If approved, it could result in the first shark ever to be listed under this law. The Porbeagle occurs in waters off the Northeastern U.S. from Maine to New Jersey. U.S. waters are part of its Northwest Atlantic range, which extends into Canada. The Northwest Atlantic population is separate from others and has declined by more than 90 percent since 1961 due to fishing. Government biologists in both the U.S. and Canada question whether it can ever recover from its population collapse, yet both countries still allow commercial fishing of the species.

“The Porbeagle Shark deserves the highest level of protections, which only the Endangered Species Act can provide. The demand for Porbeagle fins and meat remains high, but its low reproduction rate makes it extremely vulnerable to being wiped out by any level of fishing,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians, noting that the gestation period for this shark is similar that of humans: 8-9 months.

Canada previously considered federal protection for this species given its precipitous declines, but refused that protection due to economic concerns. The U.S. cannot use the same rationale for denying the Porbeagle protection: ESA listing decisions must be solely based on biology, not economics.

A fascinating trait of the Porbeagle is that it has the ability to keep its body 13-18 degrees F higher than surrounding waters. This trait allows it to inhabit very cold waters. Like other sharks, it plays a key role in marine ecosystems as a top predator. Also similar to other sharks, it is a victim of “finning,” wherein its fins are hacked off and its living body is then tossed overboard to die a lingering death, all for the dollar value of those fins and to make space onboard for other victims.

“We hope federal protection for the Porbeagle helps to shut down the market for finning, a gruesome practice that needs to be prohibited worldwide,” stated Rosmarino.

Today’s petition is part of “On the Prowl Week,” an effort by the group to raise attention for imperiled North American carnivores. Other actions this week are: a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to list the Mexican gray wolf under the ESA (NM and AZ); a petition to protect critical habitat of the Ocelot (southwestern U.S.); and a petition to federally protect the Gila Monster in Utah. On the Prowl Week is the fourth week in the group’s “BioBlitz,” an eight-week long initiative to push the U.S. federal government to more aggressively respond to the extinction crisis in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.

“Carnivores are often persecuted, despite their ecological importance and the symbol they provide of wild nature,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “Our actions this week aim to safeguard carnivores in the land and the sea, to give these charismatic animals a chance at survival,” continued Rosmarino.

WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. The group is a formal partner in the United Nation’s Year of Biodiversity (http://www.cbd.int/2010/welcome/), in which “The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

For more information, contact Nicole Rosmarino at 505-699-7404 or [email protected].

 
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