Despite the fact common thresher sharks are the largest of the three thresher species…occasionally reaching up to 24 ft in length…they pose relatively no threat to humans due to their timid disposition. Nonetheless, common threshers are heavily exploited by anglers, who enjoy the sick “sport” of capturing these sharks who are known for putting up a significant fight, and fishermen who hunt them for their fins, liver oil, tails and flesh.
Due to their rapidly dwindling population, Friends of Animals petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) last week to list the common thresher shark as “endangered” or “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The species is already listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of their declining populations which have been negatively affected due to human interference.
As mentioned previously, some consider the common thresher shark to be a desirable game fish because of their large size which means these sharks can suffer through anywhere from 32 to 140 minutes of “fight time” with anglers, which makes the capture of a thresher more prized than other sharks and increases the perceived value of their large fins in global commercial markets.
The popularity of these sharks being exploited in fishing tournaments has been steadily increasing during the past few years. One shark-fishing tournament noted that common thresher sharks made up 0.1% to 4.8% of the total catch from 1965 to 1995, but in 2004, the same tournament reported that threshers made up 27.8% of the total catch.
Some also consider the common thresher shark’s meat excellent for consumption, making common threshers more targeted than other shark species. In fact, common thresher sharks are the third most targeted catch in countries outside of the U.S.
Although fishing represents a large danger to the common thresher, it is also true that this species has a low rate of reproduction and cannot withstand even moderate levels of exploitation for long. The lack of regulatory mechanisms around the world has allowed this exploitation of this species to go unchecked and it is the goal of our petition to ensure protection for the survival of this species and request the NMFS designate critical habitat for the species in U.S. waters.