World's First International Catch Limit for Sharks Adopted

Conservationists Welcome Decision to Halt Shark Fishing off Antarctica

World's First International Catch Limit for Sharks Adopted

Brussels: The Shark Alliance is today applauding the decision by Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to halt targeted fishing of vulnerable sharks in the Southern Ocean.  Concern over the wasteful practice of shark finning as well as increased fishing for exceptionally slow growing deepwater sharks in the region prompted France to propose action that led to the moratorium.  Shark fishing will be prohibited at least until the status of shark populations and the effects of fishing them are assessed.

CCAMLR is also encouraging the release of sharks caught incidentally as “bycatch.”

“This responsible yet bold action by CCAMLR establishes the world’s first limit on the amount of sharks that can be taken from international waters and is therefore a landmark agreement in global shark conservation,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director.  

“We congratulate CCAMLR for affording sharks the precautionary protection they so urgently warrant yet rarely receive.”

Sharks are generally susceptible to overfishing because they grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.  Deepwater sharks are exceptionally slow-growing and therefore vulnerable, even by shark standards.  They are increasingly sought for their rich liver oil, used primarily for pharmaceutical purposes.  Deepwater shark fisheries in Europe and other parts of the world have led to rapid and serious population depletion with several species are now considered threatened by the IUCN.  Last month, French officials reported to CCAMLR concern over an upsurge in fisheries for deepwater sharks in the waters off Antarctica. 

“We are grateful to France for their leadership in this important decision,” said Domitilla Senni, coordinator of Shark Alliance projects in France. “We urge similar consideration and cautious approaches for sharks in other international bodies as well as in the EU, where comprehensive shark fisheries management and an effective finning ban are long overdue.”

Shark fishing in the rest of the world’s international waters is a virtual free-for-all, limited only by less than stringent bans on shark finning and international trade restrictions for three species. Substantial numbers of sharks are killed incidentally and increasingly targeted in international tuna and swordfish fisheries.  The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has so far failed to heed scientific advice to reduce fishing on shortfin mako sharks; ICCAT convenes next month in Croatia.

“We call on other regional fishery management organizations, particularly ICCAT, to follow CCAMLR’s lead and limit shark fishing to scientifically derived, sustainable levels,” added Fordham.  “Fishery managers must begin to err on the side of caution with respect to these exceptionally vulnerable marine species or we may well lose them completely.