Paris - The Shark Alliance and the European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) welcome actions taken by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) today to protect and limit fishing for sharks. From a record number of six proposals that were considered, consensus was found on measures for oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and shortfin mako sharks. Decisions of the contracting Parties fall short on protecting porbeagle and thresher sharks as well as on requirements for sharks to be landed with their fins still attached.
While oceanic whitetip sharks will be prohibited from being fished in the whole convention area, fishing for hammerhead sharks is limited with an exemption for developing countries that can use hammerhead sharks for local consumption. These countries are not allowed to increase their catches and must ban the trade in fins of this species. Oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks are highly sought for the fin trade for use in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.
Measures taken for shortfin mako sharks are basic and confined to requirements for data collection. However, Parties that do not meet these requirements will be prohibited from retaining catches. Initially, the US proposed catch limits in line with previous agreements, but several Parties blocked the proposal and delayed following the scientific advice to set limits ending overfishing.
“The measures taken by ICCAT this week are a good step forward to safeguard these highly vulnerable species,” said Heike Zidowitz, Vice President of the EEA and observer at the Commission’s meeting. “Further steps must be taken in the following years and for other regions.”
The European Union (EU) could not find agreement for their proposal for a prohibition of fishing for porbeagle sharks, because of Canada's opposition – the only ICCAT Party that has a directed fishery for porbeagle sharks. The EU was also not successful with their proposal to protect common thresher shark.
A proposal from Brazil, Belize and the US to strengthen the ICCAT finning ban by mandating that sharks be landed with their fins still attached was deferred to allow more discussion on the other shark proposals. "It is clear that momentum for banning all shark fin removal at sea is growing and that ICCAT Parties will consider such an improvement to the ICCAT finning ban again next year," said Nicole Aussedat, Shark Alliance coordinator for France. "The EU is well poised to use this time to close the loopholes in its finning ban and emerge as a leader rather than an obstacle in the fight to end this wasteful practice.”
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 100 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving 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-governmental organisation that is working to end overfishing in the world's oceans.
The European Elasmobranch Association is a non-profit umbrella organisation to co-ordinate the activities of national European organisations dedicated to the study, management or conservation of chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras). The EEA is an association of organisations, currently representing 12 European countries (UK, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, and Switzerland). The EEA is a founding member of the Shark Alliance.