BAHAMAS, CARIBBEAN SEA - DECEMBER 2007: A great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) swimming close ... [+]GETTY IMAGES

USA - U.S. Government Decides Against Adding Great Hammerhead Shark To Endangered Species List

It was a report many were looking forward to - whether or not the United States National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would decide for or against adding the great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) to the Endangered Species List (ESA).

Known for its unmistakeable hammer shaped head and a tall first dorsal fin, these nomadic, generally solitary, and highly migratory species have a circumglobal distribution. The largest species in the Sphyrnidae family, it was listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Critically Endangered due to being caught globally as target and bycatch in coastal and pelagic large- and small-scale longline, purse seine, and gillnet fisheries. Retained by many fishers for its large fins, combined with high bycatch mortality, makes this long-lived predator vulnerable to overfishing pressures. With this evidence, many hoped for good news today. Instead, they received disappointing news.

On June 16, 2022, the NMFS received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list the great hammerhead shark as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA and to designate critical habitat concurrent with the listing. The CBD argued that the 2019 assessment carried out by the IUCN had designated the species as “critically endangered,” which meant “the species satisfies the listing criteria under the ESA.”

However, the NMFS released a notice that they did not agree with the registered charitable organization: “We have previously reviewed the status of the great hammerhead shark for listing under the ESA as a result of two petitions received in 2012 and 2013. We completed a comprehensive status review of the great hammerhead shark in response to these petitions, and based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the status review report (Miller et al. 2014), we determined that the species was not comprised of distinct population segments (DPSs), was not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and was not likely to become so within the foreseeable future. Therefore, on June 11, 2014, we published a final determination, the 12-month finding, that the great hammerhead shark did not warrant ESA listing (79 FR 33509). [...] We thoroughly reviewed the information presented in [this latest] petition, in context of information readily available in our files, and found that it does not provide any credible new information regarding great hammerhead sharks or otherwise offer substantial information not already considered in our status review report of the great hammerhead shark (Miller et al. 2014) and 12-month finding (79 FR 33509, June 11, 2014). As such, we find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.”

The notice goes on to explain the reasons behind the decision, citing incorrect references by the petitioners and the petition failing to provide any species-specific information on the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification, and coastal development on the great hammerhead shark. “The petition relies solely on the 2019 IUCN assessment of the great hammerhead shark, specifically the global population reduction, as support for its statement that dramatic declines of the species around the world are evidence that overexploitation is a threat posed to the species,” they continue. “However, the petition does not provide any new information specific to the species that was not already considered in our [2014] great hammerhead shark status review report.” Researchers also argued that current conservation regulations are ineffective to ensure the survival of the great hammerhead shark, yet NMFS argues they “do not provide any reference or new evidence of the ineffectiveness of current regulatory mechanisms.”

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