Responsibly Sourced Pacific Common Thresher Shark Now Available

22 June 2011, Santa Monica Seafood.

When shark fishing makes the news these days, it’s generally negative. Shark finning, especially in California, has a lot of people up in arms lately, and rightly so. It’s a deplorable practice that has a negative impact on shark populations world wide. We want to make it clear that we’d don’t support shark finning anywhere in the world.

Shark finning is illegal in the US thanks to the Shark Conservation Act 2010 and the Shark Finning Act of 2009. Shark fishing, however, is 100% legal, and we want to make clear that we support commercial fishermen who are using targeted fishing techniques to carefully harvest from populations of shark that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists as “above target levels”. We also support trying to attain maximum yield from all seafood, and the use of shark fins from legally harvested sharks and not from untraceable imports is a great way to utilize this natural resource while being respectful of cultural differences.

We are specifically addressing the Eastern Pacific common thresher shark (CTS) harvested in California waters, where local populations have been increasing since 1990. California’s commercial thresher shark season runs from August 15 to December 15 (the fishery is closed in spring and early summer to protect breeding populations), and is subject to a variety of regulations including (but not limited to):

  • No drift net fishing is allowed within 3 miles of the coast where most pups reside.
  • The 2030 square mile area from Morrow Bay to Newport Oregon has been declared a drift net conservation area to protect endangered leather back and loggerhead turtles from the western pacific who come here to feed off of jellies.
  • Otter protection areas have cut out even more square milage.
  • Fishing must occur in excess of 25 miles out because of the great whale migration (Marine Mammal Protection Act).
  • There is a seasonal 75 mile limit in the area of Southern California bight to protect the main west coast pupping area.
  • Drift nets are restricted to no more than one mile in length, 13-20% of the sets are monitored with on board inspectors.
  • Marine Mammal deterrent pingers are required every 350 liner feet on the top and the bottom and non-complying fishermen are subject to a $10K fine. The Coast Guard uses underwater listening devices for enforcement purposes.

Although the targeted CTS season doesn’t open until August, we are now featuring locally harvested Pacific thresher shark as part of our inventory. These sharks are coming from incidental catches taken by other commercial gears including hook and line and small mesh gill nets. Small mesh gill nets include set nets targeting California halibut and drift nets targeting barracuda and white seabass. Small mesh drift gill nets [mesh 8 inches (20 centimeters) or smaller] targeting white seabass and barracuda are not required to have a drift gill net permit, however state regulations limit possession to no more than two thresher sharks along with ten barracuda or five white seabass, while federal regulations have a limit of ten highly migratory species (HMS) excepting swordfish (HMS include albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin tunas; common, big eye and pelagic thresher sharks; shortfin mako shark; blue shark; striped marlin; swordfish; and dorado).

During the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2nd Annual Urban Ocean Festival, Seafood for the Future served up over 300 samples of locally caught Pacific Common Thresher Shark (that we donated…). Together with NOAA, Seafood for the Future invited us to help to raise awareness in the community that the population of Pacific Common Thresher Shark has been brought back to sustainable target levels and will begin popping up in markets and restaurants as a responsibly managed seafood option. The message of the event was simple: supporting Pacific Common thresher shark is a delicious and inexpensive way to support our local fishing communities, sustainable fisheries management, and to help prevent shark finning.

We’re offering Pacific Common thresher shark because we believe that it is harvested responsibly. Strong populations, good management, targeted fishing techniques, no issues with habitat destruction… these are the things that qualify a species for sustainability stardom.

Additionally, we believe in supporting fishermen financially when they follow the rules and work to implement best practices. There are only 37 gill net permits left on the West Coast. Only 28 are considered active and landed 80% of the catch. Penalizing hard working, local shark fishermen for the crimes committed by other countries is unproductive and does nothing to move our industry forward.

Pacific thresher shark – delicious, affordable and responsibly harvested by local fishermen; what more could you ask for?

SOURCE: Santa Monica Seafood.


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