The National Marine Fisheries Service has implemented new, tougher conservation measures that will aid authorities in enforcing the U.S. ban on shark finning (see “The War on Sharks,” Currents, November/December 2007). Sandbar, porbeagle and dusky shark populations in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico have been severely overfished; a recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune noted that commercial fisheries target sandbar sharks because their dorsal fins command high prices in the shark-fin trade. Dusky sharks are often caught as bycatch on lines set for sandbars. The new regulations, known as Amendment 2 to the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, will impose an 80% cut in the commercial quota for sandbar sharks. Porbeagle catch has also been cut to a fraction of previous levels, with the majority of the quota allocated to the recreational fishery.
The most significant change in Amendment 2 is a new requirement that all sharks be landed with fins naturally attached. According to the Herald-Tribune article, previous rules “permitted fins to be removed from the carcass before landing as long as they fit a fins-to-carcass ratio that was imprecise and open to abuse.”