Shark advocates rejoice! As of last month, scalloped hammerheads are the first shark species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and protected by federal law.
The fins of scalloped hammerheads are a popular ingredient in shark fin soup, making these sharks a top commodity in the global market. In addition to being unintentionally caught as bycatch, overfishing has taken its toll on this species. From 1986 to 2000, scientists saw a decline in scalloped hammerhead shark populations of more than 75 percent.
While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) already recognizes hammerheads and other sharks as threatened or endangered, scalloped hammerheads are the first sharks to be granted legal protection in the U.S.
In July, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that four of the six distinct populations of scalloped hammerhead sharks would be classified as threatened or endangered (meaning they’re at risk of becoming extinct).
This is a great step for sharks, who play an important role in keeping ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced. And with an estimated 100 million sharks killed worldwide each year, it could mark an important shift in public opinion around the importance of protecting these incredible creatures.