NGOs push for end to shark fisheries

By

Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
December 13, 2009

As the European Council of Ministers meets this week to negotiate fishing quotas, The Shark Trust is urging fisheries ministers to set zero catch limits for both the spurdog and porbeagle sharks in 2010.

“Continued conservation leadership from the UK is vital to secure groundbreaking European and international protections for two of our most endangered sharks,” said Ali Hood, director of conservation for the UK-based Shark Trust.

Both species are categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “critically endangered” in the northeast Atlantic, and the IUCN-World Conservation Union includes porbeagle on its Red List of Threatened Species. Norwegian landings of northeast Atlantic porbeagle stocks declined 99 percent between 1936 and 2005, and scientists estimate that the population’s recovery could take several decades even under very low fishing pressure, according to The Shark Trust.

The EU’s 2009 total allowable catches for spurdog and porbeagle were 1,422 metric tons and 436 metric tons, respectively, despite European Commission proposals to set both at zero. The EU is recommending that both species be listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the next Conference of the Parties in March 2010. How the EU acts on recommendations for the species will affect its outcome at CITES.

“Most CITES experts have concluded that spurdog and porbeagle meet the criteria for listing under Appendix II, and both proposals received support from a majority of voting parties at the last CITES Conference in 2007,” said Sonja Fordham, EU shark policy director for the Pew Environment Group and the Shark Alliance.

“On the other hand, these two species do not enjoy as much public support as the exceptionally charismatic sharks already listed under CITES, and they are still subject to targeted, commercial fisheries, which translates into substantial political pressure to maintain unregulated, international trade,” added Fordham.

Spurdog is used in fish and chips in the UK and in smoked belly flaps in Germany. It’s also eaten in other EU countries, including Belgium, France and Italy.

Porbeagle fishing is driven by European demand for meat and Asian demand for shark fin soup. France has the only remaining targeted porbeagle fishery and the largest quota, while Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the UK also have quota shares.

In addition to requesting a zero catch limit for spurdog and porbeagles, The Shark Alliance is also pushing to continue the ban on retention of common skate, undulate ray, white skate and angel shark, as well as urging for the reduction of catch limits for other skates and rays by at least 15 percent.

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