Conservation groups demonstrate Spanish publics support for shark conservation before government
MADRID — Today, representatives from OCEANA and Shark Alliance Member Groups, Ecologistas en Acción, SUBMON and OCEANIA diving world, met with Spanish fisheries officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs to hand over nearly 13,000 petitions from Spanish citizens calling for better shark protection and to discuss Spain’s position on the new European Union (EU) Plan of Action for Sharks.
The conservationists hope the outpouring of public support will help persuade Spain, which ranks fifth in the world for shark catch, to promote and work for prompt implementation of shark conservation measures, including those outlined in the Plan.
The petitions were collected in Spain during European Shark Week last autumn from a wide range of organizations, including academic institutions, governmental bodies, aquariums and dive centers.
“The Spanish people are increasingly realising that sharks are vital to our oceans and yet seriously overfished,” said Samuel Martín-Sosa Rodríguez, from the international section of Ecologistas en Acción.“The unprecedented concern reflected in these petitions should send a clear message to our government that the public cares about sharks and wants to see them protected,” Martín-Sosa Rodríguez continued.
Most populations of European sharks and related rays are overfished, some seriously so. European shark fisheries are either completely unregulated or managed through lenient limits that defy scientific advice. The EU ban on “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) is among the weakest in the world. Spain leads the EU in catch of sharks and export of shark fins.
“Largely because of Spain, the EU is a major player in the global catch, consumption and trade of shark products,” said Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner for OCEANA in Europe. “The lack of adequate national, EU or international limits on shark fishing has left many European shark populations threatened with extinction.”
In an attempt to address these problems, the European Commission released in February a long awaited Plan of Action that lays out measures for controlling shark catches, protecting shark habitat, improving data, and strengthening the finning ban. The Plan’s success depends largely on the reactions and actions of EU Member States. EU Fisheries Ministers are expected to offer their official response to the Shark Plan in April.
“We urge the Spanish government to safeguard sharks by actively supporting timely implementation of the shark conservation measures outlined in the EU Plan of Action, including science-based fishing limits and improvements to the finning ban,” added Àlex Bartolí, leader for shark projects for Barcelona-based SUBMON. “Action is urgently needed to prevent further depletion of these vital animals and more harm to the ecosystems they maintain.”
The groups in attendance at the meeting have worked to promote a strong EU Shark Plan that commits to:
- Meaningful restrictions on shark catch,
- Protection for endangered shark species and their habitats, and
- A more effective ban on shark finning.
Mona Samari, +44 (0) 7515 828 939