The declining status of the whitetip shark in the wild determined an arm of the federal government to seek the species’ integration in the threatened list, under the Endangered Species Act. The whitetip shark is found mostly in open waters around the world and with their declining numbers, the Defenders of Wildlife asked the U.S. government to raise awareness on an impending extinction of the species and list it as “threatened”. If it happens, this will mark the most widespread shark listing in the U.S. so far.
According to a National Marine Fisheries Service report which was published in December 2016 in the Federal Register, the whitetip shark is on its way to becoming extinct in a significant portion, if not all, of its range in the near future.
Among the numerous threats to the sharks, environmentalists underline the fishing pressure all around the globe, as their fins are in high demand especially in Asian markets for use in soup. Since the 1990s, the whitetip shark population has declined by 80 to 90 percent in the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, since the 1950s, between 50 to 85 percent of sharks have vanished from Atlantic Ocean’s waters, says a natural resource management specialist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Chelsey Young.
“The oceanic whitetip has very large pectoral fins, and so they have fetched a high price on the international market in Asia”, says Chelsey Young.
Until March 2017, the fisheries service will focus on collecting public comments about the species’ status. In November, the National Marine Fisheries Service officials will announce their decision. If the sharks will be labeled as threatened, this could afford the species various protections in relation to its recovery.
The whitetip shark is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Protective measures aimed at the species’ recovery will help its ranks, says Oceana’s conservation group campaign director, Lora Snyder. However, the group calls for effective enforcement of the fishing ban that already restricts shark fin trade in the U.S. The activists wish government officials to instate a full ban in the U.S. on selling and buying shark fins in order to truly combat the global trade, responsible for the death of tens of millions of the species’ representatives each year.
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