The National Marine Fisheries Service has received two petitions to add great white sharks to the Endangered Species List. That struck me odd since they are protected here pertaining to recreational fishing for dinner, and there is little in the way of commercial incidental take.
Is this petitioned action good or bad for both the sharks and for us? It is a complex issue.
Here is a critter that elicits considerable emotion. Some folks love ‘em and want to wrap protective arms around them (figuratively speaking, of course). Others would prefer to rid the seas of them, perhaps to continue to grapple and fight our way to the coveted “apex predator” spot in the world without getting chomped along the way.
Seriously, I believe that most folks know and accept the protections we have in place are warranted and that white sharks have an important function in the food chain.
Are more protections warranted? Well, we know for sure that the recreational fishing take is zero because they are a protected species. It may be possible that one is hooked on occasion while big game trolling (like for marlin) or fishing for mako sharks, but this is rare and statistically insignificant. What I am not certain of are regulations related to allowable incidental commercial take in each of our coastal states.
One petition was submitted by WildEarth Guardians. The other petition was submitted jointly by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Shark Stewards. The petitioners asserted that a distinct northeast Pacific Ocean population segment exists and that both the species and its critical habitat should be studied.
A species, subspecies or distinct population segment is ‘‘endangered’’ if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and ‘‘threatened’’ if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Pursuant to the Endangered Species Act and implementing regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines whether species are threatened or endangered based on any one or a combination of the following factors: (1) the present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (5) any other natural or manmade factors affecting the species’ continued existence.
The National Marine Fisheries Service published the following findings statement: “After reviewing the information contained in both petitions, as well as information readily available in our files, we conclude the petitions present substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action of listing the NEP population of white shark as a threatened or endangered DPS may be warranted. Therefore, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA and NMFS’ implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.14(b)(3)), we will commence a status review of the species. During the status review, we will determine whether the population identified by the petitioners meets the DPS policy’s criteria, and if so, whether the population is in danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become so within the foreseeable future (threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We now initiate this review, and thus, the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of white shark is considered to be a candidate species (50 CFR 424.15(b)). Within 12 months of the receipt of the WildEarth Guardians petition (June 25, 2013), we will make a finding as to whether listing the species as endangered or threatened is warranted as required by section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA. If listing the species is warranted, we will publish a proposed rule and solicit public comments before developing and publishing a final rule.”
Listing northeast Pacific Ocean great white sharks on the endangered species list is far from a certain thing, even though a finding warranting further evaluation was made. NMFS also carefully points out that this in no way prejudges the outcome of the more detailed study and determination scheduled for completion by June 25, 2013.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.