WASHINGTON—The Shark Free Marina Initiative released statistics showing that recreational fishing of sharks in the U.S. has contributed to the devastating decline in shark populations worldwide. Up to 73 million sharks are killed worldwide each year in commercial fisheries, mostly for their fins. This is a staggering number that is compounded by the hundreds of thousands of sharks killed for sport in the U.S. annually. This recreational killing of sharks adds not only to the alarming death toll but also undermines efforts to gain better protections for sharks and sends an unspoken message that the only good shark is a dead one.

The SFMI is a project of the Humane Society of the United States that enlists the support of fishermen, marinas and businesses in prohibiting and discouraging the recreational killing of sharks. It is supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Fishpond Inc., Mote Marine Laboratory, Oceanic Defense, The Fisheries Conservation Foundation, the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Pegasus Foundation.

“The National Marine Fisheries Service which oversees recreational fishing in our territorial waters allows most shark species to be taken with no limits,” said to John Grandy, Ph.D, senior vice president of wildlife for the HSUS. “Millions of dollars in prizes are handed out in shark tournaments each year to recklessly encourage their killing that the government acknowledges it does little to monitor.”

Even imperiled species such as porbeagle sharks, which have lost 90 percent of their population, are targeted in tournaments. After finally taking note of their overfishing, the NMFS now encourages fishermen to release mako sharks alive and unharmed. Yet, tournaments with names such as “Mako Madness” and “Mako Mania” continue to encourage anglers to kill these sharks for prizes.

“This is a terrible situation for these animals,” said world-renowned photographer Nigel Barker who has attended the Monster Shark Tournament in Oak Bluffs, Mass. and documented the docking and hanging of the dead sharks. “Sharks are wonderful, complex creatures that deserve our respect and protection.”

“Killing close to a quarter of a million sharks a year for sport is something that most shark species can ill afford,” said Luke Tipple, managing director of SFMI. “The government estimates that recreational fishing killed an average of more than 200,000 sharks in the U.S. each year between 2004 and 2008. This has to stop and we encourage marinas everywhere to join our campaign and encourage recreational fishermen to release any sharks that are caught accidentally.”

SFMI marinas participate in a voluntary program where they agree to prohibit sharks from being landed at their facility. Working in tandem with businesses and fishermen, SFMI is working to increase the awareness of the need to protect our sharks and oceans.

Guy Harvey, Ph.D, founder, of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, one of the groups behind the SFMI, said, “I encourage recreational fishermen everywhere to join with me and SFMI to help protect sharks and our oceans by releasing all the sharks that you catch. Our world needs sharks.”


  • More than 100,000 coastal sharks are killed each year by recreational fishermen in the U.S., largely along the southeastern coastline.
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service has estimated that recreational shark fishing was largely responsible a 50 percent decline in dusky sharks along the Gulf Coast.
  • The SFMI has support from the following celebrity endorsers: Alec Baldwin, Nigel Barker, Steve Bartkowski, Elizabeth Berkley, Josh Madden, Bill Maher, Patrick McDonnell, Slash and Jim Toomey.


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  2. Federal Register. June 1, 2010. V. 75, No. 104. Page 30507
  3. Porbeagle shark. Species of Concern. NOAA/NMFS fact sheet. Availa ble at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/species/porbeagleshark_highlights.pdf
  4. Final Environmental Impact Statement on Amendment 3 to the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan. NOAA/NMFS. Silver Spring. Five year statistics t page 3-59. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/FMP/AM3_FEIS/Chapter_3.pdf
  5. Dusky Shark. Species of Concern fact sheet. NOAA/NMFS http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdf/duskyshark.pdf
  6. Proof is in the shark Pictures. July 21, 2005 Boston Herald. Archive at: http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/news/city_desk_wired/index.php/category/monster-sharkfish/

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