Spain — The Shark Alliance is expressing outrage over the continued illegal take of basking sharks in Spain. EU vessels have been prohibited from fishing, retaining or landing basking sharks, even if the catch is accidental, since 2006. In spite of this, two of the gentle giants were taken from waters north of Spain within the last four days; the events follow multiple landings of the species last year. The coalition is calling on Spain and the European Commission to enforce the basking shark rules and educate fishermen that the species is both endangered and legally protected.
On March 1, an eight meter basking shark was landed in Galicia. The next day a four meter, juvenile male was brought to shore in Asturias.
“Recovery of threatened shark species depends on tough enforcement of the 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 and publicity, must be removed. It is high time that Spain, an influential force in global shark fishing policy, took conservation of these valuable yet vulnerable animals seriously.”
A year ago, 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. In December 2009, a baby basking shark was found on display 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 Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.
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 85 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to improving global shark conservation 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.
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 shark fins are also used in this soup.
Basking sharks are listed under the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species, and several European conservation treaties.