Analysis

Shark Alliance and WWF call on Italy to lead shark conservation efforts

In recent years, Italy has been among the five largest importers of sharks in the world. © Greenpeace

Rome, 19 January 2007

At a press conference held today by WWF Italy, the Shark Alliance and local member Marevivo, called on Italy, a major consumer of sharks and foremost European shark fishing country in the Mediterranean, to lead efforts to improve shark conservation policies in Europe and around the world.

“Because of its importance in shark trade and influence within the EU, Italy is well poised to lead the way toward more responsible management of shark fisheries and trade within Europe and beyond”, said Sonja Fordham, the Shark Alliance’s political director.

European sharks are targeted primarily for meat, fins and oil and taken incidentally as bycatch in most European fisheries.  Over the past few decades, catches of sharks from most European countries, including Italy, have decreased substantially while fishing pressure has remained high.

There are roughly 130 species of sharks and rays in European waters with more than 80 species found in the Mediterranean.  Approximately one-third of these species are considered Threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria.  European populations of spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks, valued primarily for their meat, are considered Critically Endangered. 

In recent years, Italy has been among the five largest importers of sharks in the world.  Porbeagle and spiny dogfish are imported as well as makos, smoothhounds and catsharks.

Italy is the Mediterranean’s top European shark fishing country, capturing sharks by trawls, longlines and driftnets (in spite of driftnet bans).  Species taken include blue, thresher and porbeagle sharks.

In June 2007, the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will consider proposals from Germany to regulate global trade in porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks.  Whereas most EU Member States voted in favour of these proposals in December 2006, ongoing, active support from these and other countries is essential to ensure the ultimate adoption by CITES.  This action provides a key opportunity for the EU to improve a poor record on shark conservation policy by leading the world toward responsible restriction of shark trade.

“Italy must support this position at the next CITES Conference”, said Massimiliano Rocco, Species and TRAFFIC Director for WWF Italia.

“In the coming months we will call on the Italian Government to develop a serious management policy for marine resources, for sharks, bluefin tuna and for the other over-exploited species. We are waiting for a commitment to promote, at the European level, a Management Plan for shark fisheries, the reinforcement of the EU Regulation on finning and effective intervention by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment.”

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