|The UK has been one of the EU's greatest champions for sharks. Most notably, the UK led a successful battle to secure landmark international trade restrictions for the basking shark and used national legislation to protect this species as well as angel sharks and tope before EU action.
The UK was also, however, a leader in the fishery that essentially wiped out spiny dogfish and still tops the EU for take of many loosely regulated skates and rays.
|The UK ranks 19th in the world for total average catch of ‘sharks’ (including skates and rays) from 2000 to 2008, at around 13,000 tonnes (t); and UK landings have declined by 60% in that time period.
The UK fleet fishes primarily in the Atlantic, but also takes kitefin shark and shortfin mako from the Indian Ocean. UK shark catches from European waters are about a quarter those of Spain, but a similar number of species are caught (36). Of these, 16 are ray species, such as thornback and cuckoo ray.
Total UK shark catches from European waters have declined over the past six years, primarily due to declining landings of spiny dogfish (spurdog) and rays. Between 2003 and 2007, before the fisheries were phased out, nearly 7000 t of the deepwater leafscale gulper, gulper, and kitefin sharks were landed by UK vessels operating in the northeast Atlantic.
UK shark trade has also dropped over the past 20 years, apart from high exports of chilled shark and skate products in 2001.
|UK MEP Chris Davies (ALDE), one of the four UK MEPs on the Fisheries Committee, was one of the co-sponsors of the Written Declaration 71/2010 in support of strengthening the European Union ban on shark finning which 58 UK MEPs (81%) signed. Supporters included UK MEP Struan Stevenson (ECR), Vice Chair of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent champion of shark conservation causes.
Download a list of UK MEPs who signed Written Declaration 71/2010
The UK is one of four EU Member States with 29 votes in the EU Fisheries Council, and therefore has considerable influence in this important decision making body.
|Until 2009, the UK issued special permits that allowed fishermen to remove shark fins at sea through a derogation of the current EU finning regulation. The UK has, since, ceased issuing these permits and requires fishermen to land sharks with their fins attached.
The UK has vessels, including those with freezer capacity, fishing sharks around the world. The UK is therefore well-positioned to demonstrate how such long distance operations can be adjusted to successfully abide by a ban on at-sea shark fin removal. At the March 2012 EU Fisheries Council, the UK actively supported the Commission’s proposal to require all sharks to be landed with fins attached.
|Beyond EU and international commitments, each one of the four countries of the United Kingdom has shark conservation measures in place. In England and Wales, basking sharks, angelsharks, and white skates are protected from harassment and targeted fishing within national waters. Northern Ireland has the same protection for basking sharks and angelsharks only. Scotland currently only protects basking sharks and recently proposed to implement a national statutory instrument to protect all EU prohibited species and species under a zero TAC from non-commercial impact.
In all four countries, all skates and rays are to be landed and reported by species. England and Wales, recreational anglers are required to release tope sharks, and incidental commercial tope landings are limited to 45 kg per day.
|You can find a full list of UK-based members of the Shark Alliance on our member pages.
EU Shark Conservation: Recent Progress and Priorities for ActionDownload pdf
15.03.2012 UK Fisheries Minister Champions Shark Protection Read
|Concerned citizens, particularly those of the UK, can help by expressing to UK officials support for, among other measures:
- continued complete closure of EU porbeagle, spurdog, and deepwater shark fisheries
- leadership within EU delegations to international fisheries meetings
- additional national protections for endangered shark and ray species, and
- recording of shark and ray landings and trade by species and product
- active promotion for an EU-wide ban on at-sea shark fin removal.