Scientists Urge Atlantic Shark-Fishing Ban


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
October 28, 2008

An international team of scientists says shark fishing in the Atlantic Ocean should be banned for eight species and limited on two others to prevent population crashes.

Sharks are vulnerable to overfishing because they reproduce and grow slowly, but there are currently no international limits on shark harvests, according to the nonprofit Lenfest Ocean Program.

The group released a study Monday that found 10 species of Atlantic sharks are at serious risk of being overfished.

"Our results show very clearly that there is a critical need to take management action to prevent shark population depletion and maintain ecosystem function," says lead author Colin Simpfendorfer of Australia's James Cook University.

Many of the world's open-ocean shark species are declining, in part because they get caught in long fishing lines meant to catch tuna and swordfish, the scientists said. And, as the number of traditional target fish like tuna and swordfish declines, demand for shark meat and shark fins increases, Charlotte Hudson of the Lenfest program told Reuters.

The group recommended banning catches of bigeye thresher, longfin mako, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, common thresher, silky, smooth hammerhead and crocodile sharks. They urged a strict limit on the catch of blue and shortfin mako sharks.

Their recommendations were aimed at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), whose members, including the European Union and the United States, are meeting Nov. 17 to 24 in Morocco.

Although ICCAT mostly manages tuna fisheries, conservationists and scientists see the group as the only body that could impose Atlantic-wide restrictions on the taking of sharks in tuna fishing gear.

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