Brussels — The Shark Alliance is condemning another illegal landing of a basking shark. The shark was approximately 4.20 meters (14 feet) long, taken by an Irish fishing vessel. The harmless, filter-feeding shark - weighing approximately 500 kilograms and probably still juvenile - was reportedly taken unintentionally in a net off Lambay Island, near Skerries, on 14 October. The basking shark, the world’s second largest fish species, is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered to extinction in the Northeast Atlantic. Since 2006, it has been illegal for EU vessels to fish, retain or land basking sharks.
“There are so few safeguards for sharks in Europe. It is critical that all existing rules, particularly those for endangered species, are strictly enforced and that fishermen are educated about them,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, a founding member of the Shark Alliance with a long history in basking shark conservation. “Fishermen must be made aware of the need to avoid basking sharks and the importance of carefully releasing and reporting any that are caught accidentally.”
Basking shark livers are valuable for oil which is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. A single, enormous basking shark fin can fetch tens of thousands of euros for use as storefront advertising that a Chinese restaurant sells the delicacy shark fin soup.
“Enforcement of existing shark protections and prevention of future violations are essential elements of living up to the EU’s new commitment to shark conservation,” added Hood.
In February 2009, the European Commission released its long-awaited Community Plan of Action for Sharks. Among other things, the Plan includes commitments to educate fishermen and the general public about shark conservation programs and restrictions on shark fishing. The European Council of Ministers endorsed the Shark Plan in April, but the Commission has yet to take some key steps to implement it. Besides promoting such education measures, the Shark Alliance is particularly concerned to ensure that the EU’s shark finning ban is strengthened as a priority.
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 76 non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policy.
The Shark Alliance was initiated and is coordinated by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-government organisation that is working to end overfishing in the world's oceans.
Basking sharks become mature at a length of 5.70 meters in males, and 8.00 meters in females.
Basking sharks are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and several other conservation treaties.
Established in 1997, the Shark Trust is the UK registered charity which works to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. The Trust is led by a board of Trustees who oversee a small dedicated team, who are further supported by a voluntary Scientific Committee, and a growing number of supporters and volunteers. The Trust is: an effective and well respected advocate for sound shark management and protection; a founder member of the Shark Alliance; the Secretariat of the European Elasmobranch Association; and a membership organisation which provides a link between the public and the science community. The Trust works through cross-sectoral collaboration and where possible works with governments and industry to attain sustainable goals. www.sharktrust.org