Commercial fisheries are one of the greatest threats to sharks inhabiting the waters around the United States.
Fisheries kill sharks as the target species or unintentionally, as bycatch when other fish species are targeted. The United States, despite decades of fisheries management, has not been able to develop sustainable shark fisheries.
The Status of U.S. Sharks
Several recent studies have shown that shark populations in U.S. waters are in trouble.
- In the past 8 to 15 years, all recorded shark species in the northwest Atlantic, with the exception of makos, have declined over 50 percent, with scalloped hammerhead, white and thresher shark populations declining more than 75 percent.
- Abundances of all large predatory sharks along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. have fallen over the past 35 years to the point that scientists now consider them functionally eliminated, meaning that they can no longer perform their role in the ecosystem as top predators.
- Some shark species along the U.S. Atlantic coast, including bull, dusky and smooth hammerhead sharks have declined 99 percent or more in the past 35 years.
- A recent assessment of dusky sharks showed that the population in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean was in such poor shape that even if all fishing related mortality ended today, it would take 100-400 years for the population to recover.