New rules would protect hammerhead sharks
April 13, 2013 11:47 PM | 735 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Michael Hall

The Brunswick News

BRUNSWICK — Hammerhead sharks are not a regular catch on the fishing boat of charter captain Brooks Good, but when one is hauled in, the trip is considered a resounding success.

“When we catch them, it’s always a big deal,” he said of the species of shark, found in salt waters of the Golden Isles.

Good says he and his customers caught about 1,200 sharks last year on chartered trips through his business, Coastal Outdoor Adventures.

“Very few of (the 1,200) were hammerheads, but they’re the highlights, especially when there are kids aboard,” Good said.

In fact, only 12 of the sharks caught were scalloped hammerheads — a fish the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, could list as endangered or threatened in U.S. portions of the central and southwestern regions of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-West and eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean.

Federal waters along the Golden Isles, overseen by fishery councils, would not be affected by any additional regulations created by threatened or endangered status.

Good is happy to hear the predators may get some sorely needed protection in areas of the world where they are sought for their prominent dorsal fins for use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In China, a bowl of shark fin soup can cost more than $100.

“There is no sense in taking a shark just for their fins,” Good said.

The enormous popularity of shark fin soup is cited as a one of the primary reasons for a massive decline in not just hammerhead populations internationally, but other shark species as well.

Although finning, or taking just the dorsal fin from a shark and leaving it to die, has been outlawed in many nations, the harvest of fins continues in some.

Good hopes designating critical habitats and protecting scalloped hammerheads from unnecessary harvest will help populations worldwide and make hooking a hammerhead in coastal Georgia waters more likely.

If the proposed endangered listing is accepted, the eastern Atlantic and Pacific Atlantic populations would be considered endangered and the Indo-West Pacific and central and southwest Atlantic populations would be considered threatened.

All imports, exports and commercial activity dealing with scalloped hammerheads would be prohibited in the United States, according to the NOAA Fisheries Service, which is seeking public comment on the rule.

The rule will change very little for the majority of U.S. anglers, said NOAA fisheries biologist Maggie Miller. “They are not really a targeted fish and are really more of a by-catch,” Miller said.

But whether hammerheads are popular with fishermen is not the aim of the possible endangered listing.

“Sharks are a valuable part of our ocean ecosystems, and the sharks we are proposing to list under the Endangered Species Act are in trouble,” said Sam Rauch, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “Sharks worldwide face a number of threats, and these sharks in particular are facing threats from inadequate worldwide fisheries management to poaching for their fins.”
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