Will 2008 be a year of progress for shark conservation?

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Oceana welcomes new EU and international actions aiming at managing sharks for sustainable fisheries in the world’s oceans.


December 19, 2007
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




Oceana, the international organisation dedicated to conservation of the world’s oceans, appreciates recent initiatives that have been taken in order to manage sharks, species which play a crucial role in the balance of marine ecosystems and, due to their particular biological characteristics, are especially vulnerable to overfishing.

“For decades, sharks have been exploited either for their meat, fins or livers by international and European Union fisheries and some populations have been nearly decimated”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana Europe. “We have been demanding management measures for these species for years and recent developments give us some hope that it is not too late”, Pastor adds.

The adoption by the European Fisheries Council of quotas for shark species

Last night, sharks were on the table during the 2008 TACs (total allowable catches) and quota discussions and the EU Fisheries Council adopted new fishing opportunities for 2008. Oceana already presented its recommendations following the European Commission’s proposal, particularly for two species, the spurdog (Squalus acanthias) and the porbeagle (Lamna nasus), for which a zero TAC has been advised by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) scientists.

The Commission initially proposed a 25% reduction in spurdog by-catches and a TAC of 422 tonnes for porbeagle. Oceana is dissatisfied with the final decision adopted by the EU Fisheries Council, demonstrating that, once again, EU member states ignored scientific advice and prioritized the fishery sector’s interests. In effect, the proposed reduction for spurdog has been adopted but the 581 tonnes TAC agreed for porbeagle is much higher then the one initially proposed, and largely overpassing scientific advice.

Nevertheless, Oceana is aware that, even if the proper management measures have not been adopted for the porbeagle, the need for this fishery to be managed has at long last been recognised.

The Fisheries Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

Yesterday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted in its annual fisheries’ resolution important new calls on countries relating to shark conservation measures and for which Oceana is very pleased to note significant progress.

For the first time, the UNGA is calling for:

  • limits on catch or fishing effort for sharks,
  • the regularly reporting of data on shark catches, including species-specific data, discards, and landings,
  • comprehensive stock assessments of sharks,
  • a reduction of shark by-catch and by-catch mortality,
  • not increasing fishing effort in directed shark fisheries until measures have been established to ensure the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of shark stocks,
  • preventing further declines of vulnerable or threatened shark stocks and,
  • considering measures as requiring that all sharks be landed with each fin naturally attached. 

“The geographical scope covered by the General Assembly member states and the new calls for sharks management in the resolution on sustainable fisheries give an incredible chance for global shark conservation”, says Ricardo Aguilar, Rsearch Director for Oceana Europe. “We urge the 191 member states of the General Assembly to pull out all the stops in order to ensure that these measures are properly packaged in their National Plans of Action for sharks and reflected in national legislation”, adds Aguilar.

The first fruits for a European Community Action Plan for Sharks

Last week, the EU Commission opened a public consultation process for an EU Action Plan for Sharks and invited stakeholders to express their views and present their opinions by 15 February 2008.

Oceana has been campaigning for years for a sound and comprehensive science-based EU Action Plan for Sharks and welcomes this initiative taken by the Commission, representing a start of a concerted effort to implement effective management for shark species. This Consultation is the very first step of a long process which should culminate by the end of 2008 with a European Commission Communication.

In the introduction to the consultation, the European Commission:

  • considers the need of further management for sharks, both in European Community waters as well as in International waters,
  • recognizes that EU fisheries are targeting sharks; thus, these species are not considered exclusively as a by-catch any longer and need to be managed under fishing limits,
  • acknowledges that many species are Critically Endangered,
  • recognizes that only two species are protected in European waters,
  • asks to follow scientific advice at the time of the establishment of catch limits,
  • calls to reduce shark by-catch and eliminate shark discards,
  • calls for the improvement of species-specific catch and landing data and the monitoring of shark catches,
  • considers as a priority the need to improve the European regulation for shark finning.

“All of these are very positive steps towards sustainable exploitation of these vulnerable species,” says Sandrine Polti, Coordinator of the Shark Campaign for Oceana Europe. “From now on, all actors concerned with shark fisheries, and therefore shark conservation, need to collaborate and ensure that a precautionary action plan is ultimately implemented. The European Union currently has an amazing opportunity in its hands to show the world its capability to act and be a leader for shark conservation and sustainable fisheries”, adds Polti.

The organisation will continue collaborating with the European Union and all concerned stakeholders to ensure the adoption of a strong Action Plan for sharks and its successful implementation. Oceana is developing a detailed response to the consultation paper and will distribute its evaluation before the end of the consultation period set for 15 February 2008.