Barcelona — The Shark Alliance is condemning the continued illegal take of basking sharks in Spain, evidenced this week by the display of a juvenile of the species at a supermarket fish counter in Santander. The harmless, plankton-feeding basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic. It has been illegal for EU vessels to fish, retain or land basking sharks since 2006, yet authorities in Spain, the EU’s top shark fishing nation, are failing to enforce the regulation.
“The number of shark species protected in the EU is growing with good reason. Recovery of threatened shark species depends on tough enforcement of these rules as well as prevention of future violations through education,” said Àlex Bartolí, Shark Alliance Policy Coordinator for Spain. “In particular, all incentive to kill basking sharks, including profit or publicity, must be removed. It is high time that Spain, a global force in fishing for sharks, took conservation of these valuable yet vulnerable animals seriously.”
In February 2009, the European Commission released its Shark Plan of Action which includes commitments to educate fishermen and the public about shark conservation measures. In May 2009, two seven meter-long basking sharks were taken illegally from the waters off Valencia by one Spanish fishing vessel within the span of 24 hours.
Mr. Bartolí is the author of the 2009 Submon publication, SPAIN: A driving force in shark fishing around the world, which details poor enforcement and lack of awareness of shark protections in his country.
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The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 76 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to improving European shark fishing policies.
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.
Read the Submon report, SPAIN: A driving force in shark fishing around the world.
Basking shark livers are valuable for oil which is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. A single 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.”
Basking sharks are listed under the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and several other conservation treaties.
This week, the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers agreed to set porbeagle and spurdog shark fishing quotas at zero in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The angel shark and several rays received EU protection starting in January 2009.