The EU now has the chance to make good on recent commitments for shark protection

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Oceana calls on Fisheries Ministers to heed scientific advice for 2009 shark and ray fishing regulations.


December 16, 2008
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




Next year’s fishing limits for the European Union (EU) will be negotiated in the Fisheries Council meeting from 18-19 December in Brussels. Fisheries Ministers from the EU Member States will debate and agree their fleets’ Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and related fisheries regulations for the 2009 fishing year. For the first time, Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, supports the European Commission’s proposals for shark and ray fisheries, and calls on Fisheries Ministers to adopt the proposals. However, Oceana warns against any attempts to weaken them, like so called “bycatch TACs” or derogations from EU level rules for some member states to protect their national fishing industry interests.  

“For years, the scientific and conservation communities have been drawing attention to the critical state of Europe’s sharks and rays, but these warnings have gone unheeded as TACs have continuously been agreed well above the scientific recommendations”, explains Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner for Oceana in Europe. “This year we’ve seen the European Commission table sound proposals for some of Europe’s beleaguered shark populations. We hope the Fisheries Council turns this trend into reality by accepting the Commission’s good proposals.,” Greenberg concluded.

Most sharks and rays are slow growing, reproduce late in life and produce few young. These biological characteristics make them extremely vulnerable to fisheries pressure. Some populations of European sharks and rays have been severely depleted by overfishing, which has occurred without limit or with excessive limits for many years.

Oceana’s position on the species up for negation for the 2009 fishing year is the following:

Spurdog: A Zero TAC as proposed by the Commission should be implemented by the Council. This small shark has one of the longest reproductive cycles among vertebrates, making it extremely vulnerable to fisheries exploitation, and it is targeted for its meat which is highly consumed in Europe. It is Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic, according to the IUCN, and scientists have long called for a zero TAC. This commercially valuable species was recently added to the Convention on Migratory Species, highlighting its need for conservation.

Porbeagle: A Zero TAC as proposed by the Commission should be implemented by the Council. This stocky, highly migratory shark often schools by size and sex, and it is highly vulnerable to overfishing. It is taken as targeted catch and by-catch for its valuable meat (consumed in Europe) and fins (exported to Asia for shark fin soup). The porbeagle is Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic, according to the IUCN, and scientists have called for a zero TAC. This commercially valuable species was recently added to the Convention on Migratory Species, highlighting its need for conservation.

Skates and rays: Skates and rays are species closely related to sharks, poorly known in comparison but equally vulnerable to overfishing due to their biological characteristics. The Commission proposed TACs for additional areas in the Northeast Atlantic where skates and rays were previously fished without limit, including the Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters, the Celtic Seas and the Baltic. In addition, retention on board of some of Europe’s most depleted skate species, particularly the common skate, white skate and undulate ray, has been prohibited. These proposals should be implemented by the Council.

Oceana also urges the Fisheries Council to agree the other shark and ray proposals from the Commission, including prohibiting the retention on board of the Critically Endangered (according to the IUCN) angelshark and regulations covering a wider geographic area for the Northeast Atlantic gillnet fishery which catches deep-sea sharks.

“The European Union has committed to granting vulnerable sharks adequate levels of protection, and indeed the EU has been making positive moves towards responsible shark conservation in regional and international fora,” notes Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe. Pastor went on to conclude: “But while those situations were open to compromise and weakening by the various countries involved, the issue of TACs and quotas is one wholly of the EU. Now is the time for the EU to make good on its commitment for shark protection by agreeing the concrete and responsible shark measures proposed by the Commission.”

Oceana’s Position Paper on sharks and rays in the EC regulation on fishing opportunities for 2009