|France ranks second among EU Member States for shark and ray catches. For most of the lifetime of the Shark Alliance (since 2006), France has stood out for vigilant defense of its targeted fishery for Critically Endangered porbeagle sharks and vocal support for closing loopholes in the EU finning ban by ending allowances to remove shark fins at sea.
Today, with the porbeagle fishery closed, an unregulated French fishery for smoothhound sharks has been significantly yet quietly growing. With its strong influence in setting EU fishing policies, France is critical to the fate of European sharks.
|France ranks 12th in the world for average shark and ray catches from 2000-2008, at around 20,000t. Landings have remained relatively stable over the last 20 years since the collapse of the spurdog fishery.
A significant part of this catch is made up of small bottom-dwelling sharks, for which there are no limits, and rays (primarily cuckoo and thornback), which are loosely restricted through general EU skate and ray quotas. French skate and ray landings began declining before quotas were imposed and yet France still leads the EU in skate and ray catch.
Reported catches of catsharks have been stable while landings of smoothhounds have increased more than ten-fold in the past ten years. Catches of the once-targeted porbeagle shark declined steadily since the beginning of the century due to population depletion and increasing regulation. Shark imports far exceed exports, but have dropped substantially since the mid-1980s. Trade in fins is not recorded separately.
Reflecting its large population size, extensive coastline, and interest in fishing, France is a powerful EU Member State when it comes to setting EU fisheries policies. With 72 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), France has one of the largest representations. Three French MEPs are member of the Parliament Fisheries Committee.
French MEP Jean-Paul Besset (Greens/EFA) was one of the four co-sponsors of the Written Declaration (71/2010) in support of strengthening the EU shark finning ban, which 53% of French MEPs (38) signed. Download list of French MEPs who signed Written Declaration 71/2010
French MEP Alain Cadec (EPP), who signed the Written Declaration, is Vice Chair of the Fisheries Committee.
With 29 votes, France is among the four countries with the greatest influence in the EU Fisheries Council.
France does not issue the special permits that allow EU fishermen to remove shark fins at sea under the current EU finning regulation. French fishermen are therefore required to land sharks with their fins still attached.
In 2009, France spoke out in support for improving the EU finning ban and promoted “fins-naturally-attached” as the best policy for enforcement. . At the March 2012 EU Fisheries Council, France supported the Commission’s proposal to require all sharks to be landed with fins attached.
|Beyond EU and international commitments, there are no national protections for shark and ray species in France.
Advice from a group of experts commissioned by the French Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development in 2010 to protect the basking shark, scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, sawback angelshark, smoothback angelshark, blue skate, spiny butterfly ray, and giant devil ray under the Code of Environment has not yet been implemented.
|You can find a full list of France-based members of the the Shark Alliance on our members' pages.
EU Shark Conservation: Recent Progress and Priorities for Action Download pdf
Concerned citizens, particularly those of France, can help by expressing to French officials support for, among other measures:
- immediate national protections for endangered shark and ray species
- continued complete closure of EU porbeagle, spurdog, and deepwater shark fisheries
- precautionary limits and population assessment for smoothhounds, 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.