As the fisheries war continues to rage amongst conservationists, commercial entities, and international politics, it is always good news when a species in peril gets what perhaps can be called a break. Just a few months back the IUCN reported, “The global conservation status of 64 species of open ocean (pelagic) sharks and rays reveals that 32 percent are threatened with extinction, primarily due to overfishing.”
And can we honestly be surprised at the findings when we have all seen the photos displaying mounds of confiscated shark fins not unlike the old west pictures showcasing a day’s work hunting bison? But, it is not only pelagic species that are feeling the pressure of overfishing as the small coastal blacknose shark is on an unsustainable road towards collapse.
A recreationally and commercially harvested fish, the blacknose shark was hauled from the ocean at a rate of over 27,000 individuals (62 metric tons without head, guts, fins) per year from 1999-2005. Because they bear few young and were unable to cope with previous fishing pressures, NOAA is proposing a change in the status quo of lumping blacknose sharks in with other coastal shark quotas and effectively reducing their loss by 78%. Thus, blacknose sharks would be separated from the general coastal shark quota, and under the proposal the annual quota would fall to 6,065 individuals or 14.9 metric tons. Additionally, the shark would only be available for landing by commercial fishermen with directed permits.
“To help rebuild the blacknose population, NOAA’s Fisheries Service is also proposing to prohibit the landing of all Atlantic sharks with gillnet gear—the primary way blacknose sharks are caught—from South Carolina south, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.”
“Because they are frequently caught with other small coastal sharks, there is also a proposed annual quota for the non-blacknose small coastal sharks, including finetooth, Atlantic sharpnose, and bonnethead sharks. The proposed quota would be significantly reduced from the current 454 metric tons dressed weight quota to 56.9 metric tons dressed weight. The proposed quotas for blacknose and the non-blacknose small coastal sharks represent an overall 76 percent reduction in landings by weight of small coastal sharks.” (NOAA, July 24, 2009)