If you had to guess what vertebrae on the planet live the longest, you’d probably think it’s a type of bird, a tortoise, or maybe even a whale.
In reality the Greenland shark, an often overlooked animal, takes that title, living nearly 400 years.
Now the shark, a deep-dwelling nearly blind arctic fish, will have environmental protections in place for the first time.
One consequence of the shark’s long lifespan is its vulnerability to overfishing, and even inadvertent capture. It’s estimated that about 3,500 individuals are accidentally caught as bycatch by demersal trawling (also called bottom trawling), longlines, and gill nets each year in the Northwest Atlantic, Arctic Ocean, and the Barents Sea, according to the IUCN, the global wildlife conservation authority.
This, along with historically targeted fishing pressure, has contributed to a decline of about 60% in the past 420 years. In 2020, the Greenland shark’s conservation status worsened from near threatened to vulnerable.
The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), an intergovernmental organization that uses science to manage fisheries, made a decision to add the shark to a protected list.
“It was a long time coming, but not a long time in the life of a Greenland shark,” Sonja Fordham, president of Washington, D.C.-based Shark Advocates International, who attended the recent NAFO meeting in Portugal, told Mongabay. “We were glad that it finally went through, and it’s the first for that kind of protection for NAFO.”
Inspired to Act?
DONATE: If you want to help support other sharks around the world you can donate to Shark Alliance, a non-profit that helps protect them around the globe.
SUPPORT: Do your best to avoid littering and throwing trash in spots that might lead to the ocean. If you’re at the beach and see some trash pick it up and put it somewhere it won’t get into the water.