Three-quarters of the highly migratory sharks that are caught in the Atlantic are classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but less than 1 percent are protected from overfishing by the organization that’s charged with that task.
That sad statistic is according to a new report we released today coinciding with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Although ICCAT is in charge of shark conservation in the Atlantic’s international waters, Oceana’s new report shows that the organization is not doing enough.
Oceana scientists are present at the ICCAT meeting this week, and they are calling on the 48 countries that fish in the Atlantic to adopt greater measures to protect these vulnerable sharks from going extinct.
Some sharks, like tunas, travel long distances across the oceans, so their populations can’t be effectively managed by any one country. Most shark species in the Atlantic are vulnerable to overfishing because of their exceptionally low reproductive rates. Currently, ICCAT only has protections in place for a few species including hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, although many other sharks are threatened with extinction, including porbeagle, silky, shortfin mako and blue sharks.
And as you know, sharks keep the ocean ecosystem in balance. When sharks disappear, the implications for the entire ocean food chain are dire. Here’s hoping that ICCAT takes further action this time around to protect the Atlantic’s top predators.
Excellent news for sharks in Chile: Last week the Fisheries Committee of the Chilean Senate voted unanimously to advance legislation that would ban shark finning. Oceana helped promote the bill, which now heads to the Senate for a vote.
Of the 30 species of sharks caught in Chilean fisheries, at least 15 are subject to finning, and blue sharks and mako sharks are the most affected species.
Oceana filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chilean National Customs Service, which revealed that between 2006 and 2009, 71 tons of dry shark fins were exported and corresponded to eight different species.
In 2006, the Chilean Government pledged to take conservation measures for sharks through a National Action Plan for Shark Conservation which, among other goals, aims to eliminate finning.
If the bill is approved, shark finning will be banned and sharks will have to be landed with all their fins naturally and completely attached to their bodies. Also, the presence of loose fins on-board, or the transportation or transfer of cut shark fins between vessels, will be totally prohibited.
We’ll keep you posted as the bill moves through the Chilean Congress. The momentum to end shark finning around the world appears to be growing, which is great news for sharks and the oceans.