National Marine Fisheries Service Accepts Two Petitions to List the Porbeagle Shark

Nossaman LLP

On March 27, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) accepted two petitions asking NMFS to list the Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act either throughout the entirety of its global range, or as distinct population segments (DPS) occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, the Northeast Atlantic, and the Mediterranean.  (80 Fed. Reg. 16,356 [pdf].)  The petitions, filed separately by Wild Earth Guardians and the Humane Society of the United States, were originally rejected as not warranted by NMFS in July 2010.  Both petitioners then filed complaints in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging NMFS’ denial of the petitions in August 2011.

On November 14, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia released a memorandum decision (Case 1:11-cv-01414 –BJR Humane Society of the United States v. Blank et al. [pdf]) reversing NMFS’ denial of the petitions and ordering NMFS to prepare a new 90-day finding on the petitions.  The court’s ruling became final on December 12, 2014.  In accordance with the court’s direction, NFMS undertook a new 90-day review of each of the petitions, using information on Porbeagle sharks globally that became available in the time between the 2010 petitions and the court’s 2014 ruling.  NFMS also consulted with fisheries experts within the agency.  While the Wild Earth Guardians petition requests that the Porbeagle shark be listed throughout its range or in three separate DPSs, NMFS’ new 90-day finding focuses on only the Northwest and Northeast Atlantic populations.  NMFS relied on a report prepared by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2014 which concludes that the species appears to be in decline in the Northwest Atlantic due to an ongoing threat from bycatch.  The new 90-day finding uses this information to conclude that the actions requested by the petitioners may be warranted and announces the initiation of a species status review by NMFS.

NMFS requests additional information on the historical and current distribution of the shark, its abundance, life history and habitat requirements, genetics and population structure, information on threats to the species, and any ongoing efforts to restore habitat or to protect the species.  The comment period on the 90-day finding and status review will be open until May 12, 2015.  NMFS will complete its status review and publish its findings on or before December 12, 2015.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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