Press Release

Shark Trade Limits Endorsed by European Union

Germany wins EU blessing to propose spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks for listing under CITES

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The Shark Alliance is applauding Monday’s decision by European Union (EU) Member States to support Germany’s proposals to provide protection for spiny dogfish sharks (Squalus acanthias) and porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus) under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The shark proposals received unanimous support from EU Member States during the Committee on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora and will therefore be advanced by the EU for consideration at the next Conference of the Parties to CITES in March 2010.

“By adopting these landmark proposals, the European Union is poised to lead the world toward sustainable, international trade in commercially important sharks and these oft-disregarded species will at last get the global attention they need,” said Uta Bellion, Shark Alliance Director.  “We thank Germany for their diligence and urge all EU Member States to promote the adoption of these sound proposals at next year’s CITES meeting.”

Spiny dogfish are sought primarily for their meat which is exported from all corners of the globe to satisfy European demand for fish and chips and smoked belly flaps.  Fisheries generally target pregnant females resulting in severe population damage. Porbeagle meat is particularly prized in Europe while fins are exported to Asia for use in shark fin soup.  Germany proposed the listings to ensure international trade in these vulnerable species is limited to sustainable levels.  

The Northeast and Northwest Atlantic populations of spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks are included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered and Endangered, respectively.  Still, targeted fishing is allowed to continue, often in excess of scientific advice.  The EU Council sets their spiny dogfish and porbeagle catch limits in December.

“International trade limits are essential, but alone won’t save spiny dogfish and porbeagle populations in EU waters,” added Bellion. “The EU must follow this responsible, international stance with science based decisions for sharks in EU waters.  We urge EU Member States to promote an end to fishing for these depleted species in European waters, as recommended by scientists, in addition to CITES controls.”

Notes to Editors:

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 70 non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fishing policy. 

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.

Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion because they generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.  

Spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks migrate across national boundaries, but there are no international catch limits for the species (beyond EU agreements with Norway).  Most domestic management programs have failed to rebuild populations. 

Parties to CITES, of which there are currently 175, meet about every two to two and a half years.  The next Conference of the CITES Parties will be held in Qatar in March 2010.  Proposals need a two-thirds majority to be adopted under CITES.

Germany, no behalf of the EU, proposed the listing of the same two species at the last CITES Conference in 2007, but failed narrowly to achieve sufficient support.

Three species of sharks – white, basking and whale – are already listed under CITES; the volume of trade in these species is dwarfed by that in spiny dogfish.

CITES listing (on Appendix II as proposed) would result in requirements for exporting countries to limit trade to levels that do not pose a threat to wild populations, but would have no direct effect on EU fishing quotas.  

EU catch limits on porbeagle and spiny dogfish are debated at the EU Fisheries and Agriculture Council each December.  The European Commission has proposed EU quotas of zero for both species, but Fisheries Ministers have failed to follow this science-based advice and close fisheries.

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