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Hammerhead in Need of Protection
By Wendy Heller, February 19, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Bbc.co.uk

The scalloped hammerhead shark is to be added to the official endangered species list this year, under the heading "globally endangered".

Their plight has been discussed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

It was told that enforcement of marine reserves would aid shark protection.

The observation takes account of new research that shows hammerhead and great white sharks patrol fixed routes in the ocean, gathering at hotspots to mate or feed.

Dr Julia Baum, a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US, and a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), said excessive fishing was putting many of the ocean's "most majestic predators" at risk of extinction.

Speaking at the Boston meeting, she said: "Sharks evolved 400 million years ago, and we could now lose some species in the next few decades - so that would be just a blink of an eye in evolutionary time."

She said conservation concern for sharks had been mounting for several years, and it was now critical that there was effective management action in order to restore and conserve their numbers.

Fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted, but conservation groups are calling for urgent measures to set limits on shark catch and fishing quotas.

They say demand for shark fins as an expensive delicacy is greatly increasing the pressure on shark populations.

They want a meaningful ban on the practice of shark finning, which involves a shark's fins being removed before the rest of the animal is thrown back into the ocean to die.

Hammerheads are among the most commonly caught sharks for finning. A large shark fin can fetch over £50 a kilo.

Research presented at the AAAS in Boston is starting to unravel the mysteries of shark behaviour, and how they might best be protected.

Tagging studies show that the scalloped hammerhead gathers at fixed sites around islands in the Eastern Pacific Ocean during its long-distance migrations.

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