WASHINGTON—Today, Oceana launched a campaign calling on the federal government to take action to end overfishing of a severely overfished species of sharks in Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic longline fisheries. Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic coast have plummeted by 99 percent over the last 40 years as a result of overfishing and bycatch, which is the capture of non-target fish and ocean wildlife. As many as 75,000 dusky sharks may have been caught as bycatch since they were officially prohibited from being targeted in 2000, leaving their populations struggling to recover.
Despite the federal government acknowledging that dusky sharks were severely depleted nearly two decades ago, the northwest Atlantic population is still being overfished today due to federal inaction.
"It’s completely outrageous that the government hasn’t ended the overfishing of dusky sharks for more than 10 years, even though they are legally required to,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “Thousands of dolphins would still be dying in tuna nets every year if the public hadn’t demanded action. We need to do the same thing for dusky sharks.”
Throughout the week, Oceana will be rolling out a daily series of cartoon strips introducing the story of a cartoon character named “Dusky the Shark.” Having discovered the dangers he and his fellow sharks face due to overfishing and bycatch, Dusky has emerged from the water to seek help from Oceana, and achieve his “bucket list” of activities designed to protect and restore his species. Dusky will meet supporters, raise awareness and secure federal protections for dusky sharks in order to end overfishing.
Over the weekend, Dusky made his first-ever appearance at Discovery SHARK WEEK’s FinFest in Hermosa Beach, CA. FinFest is only the first stop on the journey Dusky will be taking as part of his “bucket list” campaign, where he will meet with fisheries managers, elected officials, members of the public and celebrities in order to draw attention to the plight of his species and get regulations in place to to reduce bycatch of dusky sharks.
Oceana would also like to thank the City of Hermosa Beach for welcoming Dusky the Shark to their shore.
Dusky supporters can visit the Oceana blog every morning this week to see the latest Dusky cartoon. To see photos of Dusky at FinFest, click , and to learn more about Dusky’s campaign, please visit www.oceana.org/Dusky.
Starting in 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) prohibited fishermen from intentionally catching dusky sharks in an attempt to reduce mortality and help to rebuild the population. At that time, NMFS didn’t account for bycatch, and as a result, the northwest Atlantic population was still being overfished three years later. More than a decade later, the populations are still struggling and the federal government has still failed to implement regulations that will reduce bycatch and end overfishing of dusky sharks.
In 2010, more than 4,000 dusky sharks were captured as bycatch in just three longline fisheries in the southeast region, two of which were identified in Oceana’s report “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries” as among the most wasteful fisheries in the United States.
In order to end overfishing of dusky sharks as required by law, in 2012, NMFS proposed to set limits on the number of dusky sharks that could be caught and killed as bycatch and close certain areas to longlines if those limits were reached. These measures were strongly supported by conservation groups and scientists alike, but NMFS withdrew its proposal after receiving complaints from fishermen in 2013, again leaving dusky sharks unprotected and overfished.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.