I had the pleasure of joining the Sharkbytes team this past summer in traveling to Florida to attend SharkCon. It was my first year so I was not understanding what to expect. I loved it! My main duty was to educate the kids who came to our booth on the different species of sharks. I put together a game which involved simply matching a picture to the species name. Not really knowing to expect when designing the game, I just googled images of sharks and printed the matching name and was good to go. Mind you, not being an expert on sharks, I had to familiarize myself with the correct answers by running through the game a few times.
Once the doors to the event opened we never stopped once for the entire day. Hordes of people meandered through the many booths ours being one. I must say Floridians know their sharks! I was so impressed with the eagerness the kids exhibited to show their knowledge of sharks. So instead of the teacher teaching the students, the students taught the teacher! Admittedly the shark I knew least about was the thresher. Did you know thresher sharks have big eyes, a small mouth, and its tail can be as long as it’s entire body and can be used to herd and stun small fish, upon which it preys?
What brings me to this today is an article about yet another shark that has been put on the endangered list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is the thresher. There are three species of the thresher and all three were put on the list along with the silk shark. Last year the decision was made; however, countries were given a one year graced period to accommodate the new fishing regulations.
So what are these new regulations? According to CITES, “all international trade involving them must be closely regulated. These sharks, and the products from them, can now only be exported when taken from national and international waters if the exporting/fishing country certifies they were legally sourced and that the overall level of fishing does not threaten the survival of the species.” These measures are only meaningful if implemented effectively which is entirely possible.
In the United States common thresher sharks are doing relatively well off the west coast due to comprehensive fisheries management brought on by overfishing in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, the demand of shark fin soup thrives on and the threat of overfishing in international waters carries on. Similar to the great white, thresher sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing due to slow growth, late maturity, lengthy gestation, and few young, so it is imperative the new regulations are adhered to and implemented in such a way that thresher shark population stabilizes.
Sharkbytes is appreciative of the committed people around the world and their tireless efforts for saving sharks especially considering the young population of shark lovers we encountered at Sharkcon. It emphasizes the importance of these new regulations all the more so that we preserve this world for generations ahead.