|Positive Developments in 2008 not a moment too soon
Since our last newsletter there have been a number of positive developments both in the EU and further afield: most recently, the EU Commission and Member States agreed to champion proposals from Belgium and the Netherlands to list spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) at the Conference of the CMS Parties in December. Also significant was the June U.S. prohibition on the removal of shark fins at sea and deep sea shark quota cuts for Atlantic fisheries, while in the UK, angel sharks and tope were awarded protection in English waters (and tope also in Welsh waters).
And not a moment too soon: several scientific reports have continued to underline the need for such protection (find out more below).
|"We applaud the US for improving the Atlantic shark finning ban by requiring that sharks be landed with their fins attached, as long recommended by enforcement officials and scientists," said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for Shark Alliance and Shark Conservation Program Director for member group Ocean Conservancy. "This straight-forward strategy is by far the best method for ensuring an end to the wasteful practice of finning and should serve as a model for the EU as it works to improve its finning ban through the development of a Community Plan of Action for Sharks."
US acts to cut Atlantic shark quotas and prohibit removal of shark fins at sea, 20 June 2008
ICES advises “highest protection possible” for angel sharks and white skates
At the end of June, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) released its scientific advice on bottom dwelling (demersal) sharks and rays of the Northeast Atlantic. Included in that advice are clear recommendations to provide severely depleted angel sharks and white skates with the "highest protection possible" and to end targeted fishing for "common" skates and undulate rays. The ICES scientists also advised maintaining status quo catches for a host of species.
Shark Alliance press release and two summary table documents regarding the advice
OSPAR Commission adds six shark species to their Threatened Species List
On June 26th, the OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Convention) Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Northeast Atlantic decided to add six species of sharks to their list of Threatened and Declining Species and Habitats: porbeagle shark, spurdog, gulper shark, leafscale gulper shark, Portuguese dogfish, and angel shark.
Sharks - in the Baltic Sea?
Not only are there 31 species of sharks and related species in the Baltic Sea, but current safeguards are insufficient in the face of current fishing and environmental pressures. A new report from the Shark Alliance highlights the threats to these over-looked fish and calls for improved conservation policies.
"Sharks and related species are poorly studied and inadequately protected throughout most European waters, and our analysis reveals that these failings are even more severe for the Baltic region," Sonja Fordham, co-author of the report.
It’s confirmed – the Med is one of the most dangerous places on earth for sharks
Another report about sharks in the Mediterranean, published in the journal Conservation Biology in June 2008, underscored previous IUCN conclusions that the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most dangerous places on earth for sharks. Five of the twenty big shark species in the Mediterranean - hammerhead, thresher, porbeagle, mako and blue sharks - have declined by 97 percent on average over the last 200 years. There are currently no Mediterranean catch limits for these species and, while 'finning' is prohibited throughout the Mediterranean, enforcement methods are lenient.
Global status of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays
A study organised by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group revealed that over half of the world’s 21 species of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays assessed are threatened with extinction. Five more of these species show signs of decline. The study blamed serious overfishing for the declines and documented how these sharks are not only taken as bycatch but are also being targeted for valuable fins and meat. In most cases, oceanic pelagic shark catches are unregulated and unsustainable.
|"The traditional view of oceanic sharks and rays as fast and powerful too often leads to a misperception that they are resilient to fishing pressure," Sonja Fordham, co-author of the paper and Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group (SSG).
The scientists are calling for global catch limits, an end to the practice of removing fins, and measures to minimise incidental catches (bycatch).
Also taking a look at the global plight of sharks, is a new book ‘Sharks of the Open Ocean’ by Drs. Merry Camhi and Ellen Pikitch. Focusing on 12 pelagic (open ocean) sharks, including threshers, makos, porbeagles, great whites and blue sharks, the book documents a global problem of overfishing and depletion in most pelagic shark populations and offers a sound scientific basis and practical roadmap for corrective action.
The tools to protect Mediterranean, Baltic and other European sharks are numerous, yet so far under-utilised.
The European Commission is currently developing a comprehensive Plan of Action for Sharks (CPOA) that can set the stage for widespread improvements in EU shark policies, including science based catch limits and a stronger finning ban. The Commission expects to complete the plan by December 2008 for consideration by the EU Council of Ministers.
Find out who has commented on the Commission’s consultation paper and what the key issues are;
In the meantime, EU Member States can enact national rules to protect sharks and should now be working to build support for EU proposals to list spiny dogfish and porbeagle under the Convention on Migratory Species (the path that led to Mediterranean protections for white and basking sharks) to ensure their adoption at the December Conference of the Parties in Rome. The European Commission and Member States can also work together to develop shark conservation proposals for the regional fisheries bodies that guide and mandate fishing restrictions in the Mediterranean and Baltic.
Lastly, Member States should now be encouraging the Commission to issue strong proposals for 2009 EU catch limits for sharks and rays that reflect the advice from ICES and urgings from OSPAR. Specifically, the Commission should propose zero catches for angel sharks, spiny dogfish, porbeagles, white skates and deepwater sharks, an end to targeted fishing for common skate and undulate ray in the Northeast Atlantic and cap landings for a variety of bottom-dwelling sharks and rays.
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