Europeans concerned for sharks

Shark Advocates meet with Commission to convey growing public support for conservation action

Europeans concerned for sharks
Shark Alliance members at Brussels

Brussels…This week, representatives of the SHARK ALLIANCE from all over Europe fanned out across Brussels to push for an end to shark overfishing. 

Advocate’s activities culminated in a meeting on Thursday with European Commission officials, to deliver more than 20,000 petitions collected from concerned citizens during last month’s “European Shark Week.”  The petitions called for a sound European Union (EU) plan to protect endangered shark species and limit shark fishing.  The large number of signatures and the diverse delegation to the meeting demonstrate widespread support within Europe for the conservation of sharks.

The Shark Alliance – a coalition of more than forty conservation, fishing, diving, and scientific organisations dedicated to improving European Union shark fishing policies – also used the opportunity to call on the Commission to propose that the European Council of Fisheries Ministers act in December to bring an end to unsustainable fisheries for endangered spurdog and porbeagle sharks.  Shark advocates from the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Malta, Spain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands represented the Shark Alliance at the Commission meeting.

“Given the growing, global awareness of the issue, we are pleased yet not surprised by the tremendous outpouring of concern for sharks from European citizens,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance.  “This strong support must now be reflected in an elevated priority for shark conservation within the EU, including sound proposals to ensure that these vulnerable species survive.”

The Shark Alliance proclaimed October 8-14, 2007 “European Shark Week” to raise awareness of the serious decline of shark populations, and the pressing need for EU limits on shark fishing.  Shark Alliance member groups held more than 100 promotional events and activities in countries throughout Europe.

Most sharks and closely related skates and rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young.  One third of European sharks and rays are considered by the IUCN to be threatened with extinction and yet most EU fishing for these species remains unregulated.  The EU is just beginning to develop a Plan of Action to conserve sharks and rays and manage associated fisheries, as pledged under the 1999 United Nations International Plan of Action for Sharks. 

“It is high time that these vulnerable animals received the attention and protection that is warranted by their poor population status and limited reproductive capacity,” said Ali Hood, Conservation Director for the UK based Shark Trust which led the Shark Week efforts.  “We urge the Commission to produce science-based, precautionary shark conservation proposals, and Member States to actively promote their prompt adoption.”

Plans for European Shark Week 2008 are underway in an effort to continue to build upon and demonstrate to EU resource managers the public’s support for safeguarding sharks.