Updated on April 21, 2016
Hollywood movies often portray sharks as ferocious feeders waiting for unsuspecting bathers to jump into the water. The reality is vastly different with 4 people on average killed by sharks each year, while we catch and kill several million sharks. Many shark species grow slowly, take many years to become sexually mature and produce only a few young a year. Without effective management it is relatively easy to overfish shark populations and today many species are considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to be endangered or vulnerable. Abundance of a species varies among regions and countries, however, and the U.S. does a far better job than most counties in managing their shark fisheries.
BOI has recently ranked several shark species that are commercially caught in U.S. waters. Each ranking considers not just abundance, but life history, fishing method/habitat effect, management and bycatch. Considering these extra factors provides a better reflection of the actual environmental impact of fishing a shark species. Each report was extensively researched and written by a shark biologist, and peer-reviewed by several shark-fishery scientists. These reports show that sustainability rankings vary greatly between shark species and even between fishing regions. Blacktip sharks are okay to eat, for example, while Sandbar shark are not so great. Spiny Dogfish from the Atlantic Ocean have a good environmental ranking but have a bad ranking if fished from the Pacific Ocean.