I am writing to you this day as an appeal on behalf of a well-known and iconic species of animal found within New York state which is in great danger of becoming extinct within the next few years. The species which concerns me is the Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus), which is also known by the names of the "Ragged Tooth Shark" in South Africa and the "Grey Nurse Shark" in Australia. The Sand Tiger is found along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States in marine waters stretching from Massachusetts to Florida. For years, it has been known that populations of this shark are found within New York territorial waters, and in fact, this shark is one of a small handful of sharks which are native to the waterways of New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound.
The Sand Tiger Shark typically grows to 10 feet long and reaches about 125 pounds in weight. The Sand Tiger is unique among sharks that it is the only shark species which has the ability to gulp air in order to provide buoyancy, which enables it to hover almost motionless. Sand Tigers are also able to tolerate water which has low oxygen levels, which other shark species would not be able to survive in. Despite its menacing toothy appearance, it feeds exclusively on fish, and prefers to hunt for fish closer to the sea bottom rather than near the surface. Divers who have encountered these animals in the wild assert that Sand Tigers are shy and reclusive by nature, avoiding humans as much as possible, and will only attack if they are harassed or harmed. In fact, according to the international database of shark attacks known as the S.A.S., there are absolutely NO records whatsoever of a human being killed by a Sand Tiger at any time, anywhere in the world, ever.
Sand Tiger Sharks adapt very well to captivity, and it's for this reason that the Sand Tiger is the shark which is most commonly seen in public aquariums. These sharks are a great attraction to the public, many of whom come to these aquariums specifically for the purpose of seeing sharks like this up-close. Sand Tigers are therefore not only biologically important, but they are also financially important, as the attraction and draw for these animals is the reason for a large portion of these aquariums' revenue. Without Sand Tigers to draw in the public, the amount of money that these institutions take in every month would be dramatically lower.
However, Sand Tigers are not invincible. While Sand Tigers are slightly more tolerant of pollution than other shark species, the levels of pollution within New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound have become so high that even Sand Tigers find it extremely difficult to survive here. Populations have dramatically decreased, and if the present trends of population decline continue, they are unlikely to rise again. This is because the Sand Tiger has a very slow birth rate. Typically, females give birth to new sharks only once every two or three years, and the number of sharks that are born within each gestation period is very low. This means that if a population of Sand Tigers is hard-hit, it may possibly take centuries for it to recover.
Not so long ago, the Sand Tiger Shark was one of the most common sharks in the ocean, with populations found all along America's Atlantic seaboard. However, within recent decades, their population has plummeted to shockingly low levels. Elsewhere in the world, Sand Tiger populations have dropped dramatically. The Australian government has classified the Sand Tiger Shark as an "endangered species" since 1992, and the Sand Tiger's population within the Mediterranean Sea was declared to be extinct within that region in 2003. Since then, Sand Tiger populations have dropped further. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.), the Sand Tiger Shark was classified as "threatened" in 2012, and then, most shocking of all, just eight years later in 2020, it was re-classified as "critically endangered". This means that this shark species is just two steps away from being extinct.
The evidence is clear – the Sand Tiger Shark, which had previously been one of the most common shark species found throughout the world, and which was able to tolerate aquatic conditions that other shark species couldn't, is dying out. Even this hardy species is suffering from pollution, over-fishing, and habitat destruction. If this hardy species cannot survive the ravages that have been brought upon its ecosystem, then how will other shark species, who do not share the strengths of this animal, be able to survive? If the Sand Tiger is suffering, then we can take it for granted that other shark species must be suffering more.
Because the Sand Tiger Shark is biologically unique among sharks, and because it is a native New York species, and because its populations are so severely threatened with extinction that they are now classified as "critically endangered", I therefore request that a bill be proposed and passed into law which would officially designate the Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus) as a protected species within all New York state territorial waters, that it be made illegal to deliberately harm or kill a Sand Tiger within NY territorial waters, that any Sand Tigers which are captured alive within NY territorial waters must be immediately released, that locations where Sand Tigers live and more importantly breed within NY territorial waters be identified and mapped, and that these locations shall be protected, have pollution removed from them, and be ecologically revitalized as much as possible in order to preserve these habitats for Sand Tiger Shark populations in the future.