Brussels — Late word that EU Fisheries Ministers agreed today to fully protect four highly endangered shark and ray species helped to ease conservationists' dismay over the adoption of excessive 2009 quotas for severely overfished spurdog and porbeagle sharks. The Council adopted a science-based proposal from the European Commission to ban the retention and mandate careful release of increasingly rare angel sharks, common skates, undulate rays and white skates.
“EU Fisheries Ministers have done the right thing by agreeing to protect four of Europe's most threatened marine species, including the critically endangered angel shark,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance. “Whereas such decisive action was also warranted and yet not taken for spurdog and porbeagle sharks, we are very pleased that the new protections have been adopted and hopeful that they will serve to bring these species back from the brink of extinction.”
Some local populations of these bottom-dwelling shark and ray species have already been wiped out, due mainly to unintended catch in fisheries for other species.
Unlike most EU fishing rules, protection of angel sharks will extend into EU waters of the Mediterranean.
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 60 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to improving European shark fishing policies.
Most sharks and rays can be easily overfished because they grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.
Earlier this year, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommended that angel shark and white skates receive the "highest possible protection" and has called for an end to fishing for undulate rays and common skates.
Common skate, angel sharks and white skates are listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered; undulate rays are classified as Endangered.
Porbeagle and spurdog sharks are classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.
In January 2009, the European Commission is expected to release its long awaited Plan of Action for Sharks, first promised in 1999 with the adoption of the United Nations International Plan of Action for Sharks.