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An Introduction to Protected Sharks and Rays

November 05, 2020

The smalltooth sawfish, giant manta ray, oceanic whitetip shark, scalloped hammerhead shark are found in the southeastern United States and are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Sharks, skates, and rays are cartilaginous fish—known as elasmobranchs.  Many elasmobranchs live in temperate and tropical oceans. They play an important role in ocean ecosystems. Sawfish and many sharks are top-level predators that help keep ecosystems in balance.  Manta rays, whale sharks, and basking sharks are lower-level consumers that feed upon types of plankton. These planktivores are important indicators of ocean health, regulate plankton abundance and community structure, and promote nutrient cycling with their diving behavior.

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on 11/05/2020