On the eve of European Shark Week – a major campaign to save sharks – French politicians, scientists and ecologists are calling for France to put pressure on the European Union to instigate a European plan of action from 2008 to save sharks.
In 2005, France ranked second among European Union member states in the quantity of elasmobranches (sharks, rays and chimeras) caught. This year, the amount of elasmobranches caught by French boats is said to be 21,342 tonnes, of which 11,365t were sharks and 9,978 were rays. With 3,364t imported in 2006, France is the third largest importer of shark products in Europe, after Spain and Italy. Shark populations have difficulty recovering from overexploitation due to their slow rate of growth, late maturity and low rate of reproduction. A third of European shark and ray populations are listed as “vulnerable”, “in danger” or “in critical danger of extinction” on the IUCN’s (the World Conservation Union’s) Red List of threatened species, and a further 18% risk joining them in the near future.
As ONG Shark Alliance spokesman Rémi Parmentier states, “With its strong fishing tradition and commitment to sustainable development, France is the ideal candidate to lead the European Union in a new age of responsible fishing and regeneration of decimated populations by taking a leading role in shark conservation.”
Representatives from various French political groups, such as Yves Cochet, Aurélie Filipetti and Jean-François Le Grand have teamed up with various celebrities including Hubert Reeves and Claire Nouvian to call for a parliamentary resolution backing a European shark conservation plan. This plan, called for by the FAO in 1999, should bring immediate restrictions on the number of sharks caught in European fisheries, as well as the application and continued improvement in programmes to reduce by-catches of sharks, rays and chimeras considered “in danger” or “in critical danger of extinction” by the IUCN. The plan should also mean closing the loophole in the ban on finning, which allows the removal of shark fins at sea.
“Right now, sharks are some of the most threatened species in our oceans. The French presidency of the European Union in 2008 offers our country the opportunity to be a driving force behind public action to conserve marine biodiversity and save wild species – particularly sharks,” the head of the parliamentary initiative, Yves Cochet, concludes.