Saving the shark

Published: Thursday 28 February 2002

taking serious note of shark overfishing, environmentalists have filed a suit in the us district court in Tampa, Florida, against the us government, alleging that the National Marine Fisheries Service (nmfs) had failed to prevent overfishing and rebuild us coastal shark populations.

In recent years, shark fishing has increased substantially as demand has grown worldwide for such delicacies as shark fillet and shark-fin soup. The increasing use of shark meat has also made it the prized target of commercial fishers along the us east coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Against such a backdrop, scientists say populations are declining rapidly. "The lawsuit is intended to get the government to follow the law in terms of shark fisheries to rebuild the population," said Sonja Fordham, a fish conservation manager with an ngo, The Ocean Conservancy. She added, "We need to manage them in a precautionary way for the public good."

The environmental groups accused nmfs managers of having "caved" to pressure from commercial fishers by suspending reduced shark quotas that it decided on in 1999 in order to settle a lawsuit filed by the industry.

While humans kill millions of sharks every year, shark attacks on humans are relatively rare and result from increasing numbers of people swimming in shark habitats, believe experts.

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