Letter

Open letter to Commissioner Borg

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Europe includes some of the world's most important shark fishing nations © NOAA (National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration) / Greenpeace

In an an open letter to EU Commissioner Joe Borg, the Shark Alliance called on Borg to ensure that the European Union (EU) address the plight of the world’s valuable yet vulnerable shark populations at next week’s meeting of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

Commissioner Borg acknowledged last year that a comprehensive set of management measures is required and the Shark Alliance calls on him to set a timeline for plan development and implementation.

Less than 20% of COFI member nations have completed the promised National Plans of Action and no international catch limits for sharks have been adopted. COFI provides a key opportunity for the EU to take the floor during discussions of the FAO International Plans of Action (IPOAs) to report on progress and expected completion of this important goal.

OPEN LETTER TO COMISSIONER BORG

Commissioner Joe Borg
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels
Dear Commissioner Borg:

On behalf of the Shark Alliance, a coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations committed to improving European shark policy, I am writing to urge you to ensure that the European Union (EU) use the occasion of next week’s meeting of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) to address the plight of the world’s valuable yet vulnerable shark populations. We thank you for recently underscoring the EU commitment to producing a shark action plan, as agreed at the 1999 COFI meeting, and request that the EU take the floor during discussions of the FAO International Plans of Action (IPOAs) to report on progress and expected completion of this important goal.

It has been eight years since global concern over the plight of these slow-growing and under-protected species led to the adoption of the Shark IPOA. Sadly, progress under this agreement has been pitiful. Less than 20% of COFI member nations have completed the promised National Plans of Action and no international catch limits for sharks have been adopted. We believe the EU, given its role and influence in the global fisheries arena, has the responsibility to set a good example and act as a leader in encouraging other fishing countries to conserve sharks on national and regional scales.

Since 1999, scientific warnings of shark depletion have only intensified. The IUCN now considers one third of European sharks (and closely related skates and rays) assessed to be Threatened with extinction. Advice from International Council for Exploration of the Sea scientists to end fishing for severely depleted spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks, considered Critically Endangered off Europe by the IUCN, has been ignored. Rapid expansion of deepwater shark fisheries has led to disaster for the targeted populations and associated industries. Last week, IUCN experts added shortfin mako and thresher sharks to the IUCN Red List, demonstrating that even the fastest, widest-ranging sharks are vulnerable to serious overfishing.

The Shark Alliance agrees with your assertion during last fall’s European Parliament debate on shark finning that prohibiting the practice is not sufficient to ensuring sustainable shark fisheries and that a more comprehensive set of management measures is required. Whereas we appreciated your commitment to complete such a plan at the earliest possible date, we believe setting a timeline for plan development and implementation is necessary to ensure steady progress and timely completion of this critical task.

Considering that much preliminary work has been done, we believe that the plan can be completed by the end of 2007, provided sharks are given the high priority that is warranted by their biology and status.

Sharks are among the oceans most vulnerable animals. As top predators, they are also vital to marine ecosystems. We believe the upcoming COFI meeting offers the EU a key opportunity to signal a new era of responsible stewardship of these exceptionally imperiled and important species. We hope you will embrace this opportunity by ensuring that the EU delegation details its plans and timeline for shark conservation and calls on other nations to do the same.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Sonja Fordham, Policy Director

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