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What exactly is ‘endangered’???

What a way to spend a day out with your kids: kill an endangered species…

Two years ago, Rosie O’Donnell, new presentator of the programme The View joined operator Mark the Shark for a shark fishing trip. Mark the Shark is proud NOT to be a catch-and-release operator (as most operators in Florida are), but boasts about having killed 100,000 sharks…

Rosie defended herself, by stating that the shark she caught (Sphyrna mokarran) is not endangered’, and she cannot be blamed for killing one. And in a certain way Rosie is, unfortunately, right. Officially, the great hammerhead is not endangered. It is not listed under the  American Endangered Species Act (ESA). Only one shark shark is listed, the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini). So Mark the Shark can just continue what he is doing.

An endangered (EN) species is one which has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as likely to become extinct. Conservation biologists use the IUCN Red List, where “endangered” is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations, following critically endangered. That does NOT mean, that it has be listed as an endangered species in any country. Or be officially protected. Many species disappear from our world without ever receiving protection, and 30% of all shark species is probably endangered. Many shark species are ‘data deficient'(DD), as there has never been good research on population sizes and trends. There are no numbers to show it is actually endangered. So… there are no fishing quota, no rules at all. And any country can chose to ignore international conventions.


In the Netherlands, a  large porbeagle shark was landed and made it to the news.  It was even sold on the local fish market. Hardly anyone realised this was an officially protected species. Protection is useless without knowledge and when it is not respected. 



The British Shark Trust has started the No Limits Project: no limits, no future, in an effort to stop uncontrolled shark fishing: no catch limits, or management of any sort, exists for the Blue Shark, Shortfin Mako Shark, Tope, Smoothhound or catsharks. Species that used to be abundant in the North Sea and around the British Islands, but numbers have seriously decreased. Fishing just goes on, with heavily subsidized European vessels. These species can all be critically endangered before we realise it. And this applies to many ‘not so charismatic sharks’: smal sharks, catsharks, deepsea sharks…

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