By Nicole Rivard

A legal petition from Friends of Animals provides substantial scientific and commercial evidence that the common thresher shark requires the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which made the announcement last week. The agency will begin a status review for the species and must decide whether it warrants ESA listing by the end of August 2015. 

“We are happy that NMFS is recognizing the threats to the thresher shark and hope the agency moves forward quickly to ensure protections for these amazing creatures,” said Jenni Barnes, staff attorney at Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “An ESA listing would prohibit the import and export of common thresher shark products, which would place a freeze on the fin market trade for common threshers. Similar bans on the fin market trade in several U.S. states indicate that such a measure is much more effective for shark conservation than just a ban on finning.”

Friends of Animals’ August 2014 petition sought ESA protection for the common thresher shark. Thresher sharks face unprecedented threats to their survival, all caused by humans. Like many shark species, the common thresher’s fin is highly sought after for commercial exploitation. Common thresher sharks are the third most targeted catch in countries outside of the United States. 

In the Americas, threshers are often caught as bycatch, and unlikely to be released because threshers have high commercial value and may even be sold for higher prices than the swordfish that many gillnet fisheries are designed to catch.  

Common thresher sharks use their long tails to stun prey, and as a result, are often caught by the tail on recreational and longline fishing gear. “Sadly, in terms of recreation, some consider thresher sharks a desirable game fish because they are a larger shark species and put up a significant fight when caught, making the capture of a thresher more prized,” added Barnes.

In addition to their meat and fins, common thresher sharks’ hides are used for leather while the small amount of oil found in their livers is considered highly valuable and sold at high price ranges. 

Compounding the plight of the common thresher shark is its slow life history. The species develops quite slowly, taking approximately five years to reach sexual maturity and has low fertility, resulting in a low capacity to recover from even moderate levels of exploitation. They have small mouths to match the size of their prey and are no threat to humans 

The NMFA stated that since it received the petition, the common thresher shark has been listed in Appendix II under the International Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which will encourage international cooperation towards conservation of the species.

Information and comments on the common thresher shark finding action must be received by May 4, 2015.

You may submit comments, information, or data, identified by “NOAA-NMFS-2015-0025” by either of the following methods:

· Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to Click the “Comment Now” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

· Mail or hand-delivery: Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.