Press Release

Gentle Giants Taken Despite Protection

Shark Alliance denounces illegal landing of basking sharks in Spain

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The harmless, filter-feeding sharks - a male and a female were reportedly taken unintentionally in nets set off Cullera, near Valencia.

The Shark Alliance is condemning two illegal landings of basking sharks, both approximately seven meters long, taken by one Spanish fishing vessel within the span of 24 hours.  The harmless, filter-feeding sharks - a male and a female weighing 1300 and 1800 kilograms respectively - were reportedly taken unintentionally in nets set off Cullera, near Valencia, on 21 and 22 May.  The basking shark, the world’s second largest fish species, is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as Vulnerable to extinction in the Mediterranean.  Since 2006, it has been illegal for EU vessels to fish, retain or land basking sharks.

“There are so few safeguards for sharks in Europe. It is critical that all existing rules, particularly those for endangered species, are strictly enforced and that fishermen are educated about them,” said Ali Hood, Conservation Director for the Shark Trust, a founding member of the Shark Alliance with a long history in basking shark conservation. “Fishermen must be made aware of the need to avoid basking sharks and the importance of carefully releasing and reporting any that are caught accidentally.”

Basking shark livers are valuable for oil which is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. A single, enormous 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. The basking shark taken on 22 May was reportedly donated to a university for study, but the fate of the other shark was not reported.

“Enforcement of existing shark protections and prevention of future violations are essential elements of living up to the EU’s new commitment to shark conservation,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance.  “All incentive to kill basking sharks, including profit or publicity, must be removed.  If exceptions are made for accidental catches, we are likely to start seeing more accidents – something that this depleted population simply cannot withstand.”

In February 2009, the European Commission released its long-awaited Community Plan of Action for Sharks.   Among other things, the Plan includes commitments to educate fishermen and the general public about shark conservation programs and restrictions on shark fishing. The European Council of Ministers endorsed the Shark Plan in April, but the Commission has yet to take steps to implement it.  The Shark Alliance is pushing for higher priority and prompt implementation of the EU Shark Plan.

For more information, media interviews or B roll:

Mona Samari, Tel: +44 (0) 7515 828 939,
email: mona@communicationsinc.co.uk

Notes to Editors:

The Shark Alliance, a coalition of more than 70 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations, was formed in 2006 to promote the development of a sound, science-based EU Shark Plan.

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.

Two basking sharks were landed illegally in Greece in March 2009.

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Appolonia Benoist

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