Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 22, 2023


Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467,

Smalltail Shark Moves Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

WASHINGTON— Responding to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that protecting the smalltail shark under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted. The smalltail shark population has declined by more than 80% globally over the past 27 years.

“I’m so relieved that the struggling smalltail shark may get protections under the Endangered Species Act,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center. “The smalltail shark’s population has taken a nosedive over the last few decades. Along with other shark species they’re at constant risk of being killed for their fins, meat and other body parts. There’s a really good chance these sharks will go extinct without Endangered Species Act protections.”

The smalltail is found from the Gulf of Mexico south to Brazil, where it has been eliminated from waters off the coast of at least 11 Brazilian states.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes the smalltail shark as critically endangered, a designation for species at major risk of extinction. Overfishing for its meat and fins, climate change, ocean pollution and insufficient regulatory protections throughout the shark’s range are all threatening the species.

Smalltail sharks only grow up to five feet long. They live in shallow, nearshore waters, which makes them vulnerable to fishing activity. A slow-growing, late-maturing species, the smalltail shark is slow to recover from overexploitation.

Following today’s decision, the Service will open a 60-day public comment period on smalltail shark protection. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to decide whether to list the species by October 2023.

Smalltail sharks have suffered severe population declines across their range. The core population of the species off the coast of Brazil has dropped by 90%. Heavy fishing pressure has also driven the smalltail’s numbers down in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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