Smalltail Shark Species Have Declined By 80% In Almost Three Decades; New Petition Seeks To Protect Them Under The Endangered Species Act

Photo by: SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC

The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition this week urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the smalltail shark under the Endangered Species Act. The smalltail shark population has declined by more than 80% globally over the past 27 years.

The smalltail shark is found in the Gulf of Mexico south to Brazil, where it has been eliminated from waters off the coast of at least 11 Brazilian states.

“The rapid and catastrophic decline of the smalltail shark is alarming, and the species needs immediate help,” said Kristin Carden, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “More than 100 million sharks, including smalltail sharks, are killed every year for their fins, meat, and other body parts. Without Endangered Species Act protections, the smalltail shark will soon become another victim of the global extinction crisis.”

The smalltail shark is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, a designation for species teetering on the brink of extinction. The species is highly threatened by overfishing for its meat and fins, in addition to impacts of climate change, ocean pollution, and insufficient regulatory protections throughout its range.

Smalltail sharks are diminutive animals, growing only up to five feet long. The species lives in shallow, nearshore areas, which makes it vulnerable to fishing activity. A slow-growing, late-maturing species, the smalltail shark is slow to recover from overexploitation.

Smalltail sharks have suffered severe population declines across their range. The core population of the species off the coast of Brazil has dropped by 90%. Heavy fishing pressure has also driven the smalltail’s numbers down in the Gulf of Mexico.

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