Today Oceana, the international organisation dedicated to conserving and protecting the world’s oceans, published its third report in its series on European Union shark fisheries and trade around the world. The report, entitled Fishy Business, reveals how European Union fleets, in particular some from Spain, escape EU regulations by catching sharks in targeted but unmanaged fisheries all around the world.
A year-long investigation by Oceana researchers has found that EU vessels catching sharks now travel further and further in the world’s oceans to fill the growing demand for shark fins on the Asian market. The vessels can catch sharks with legal frameworks with third-countries under EU management, or with "Joint Venture" vessels that have foreign flags or vessels flagged with "flags of convenience" that are outside any EU control.
Given that many of the shark fisheries established with these legal frameworks are poorly managed or uncontrolled, Oceana researchers have discovered the EU fleet carrying out forbidden activities in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). According to a French Polynesian decree from April 2006, the catch, trade and sale of any shark part, except for shortfin makos, is prohibited in French Polynesia. However, this new Oceana report reveals that a Spanish surface longliner called the Nuevo Josmaru, a 43-metre modern industrial fishing vessel, landed and transferred shark fins in the harbour of Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.
In addition, Oceana has discovered Spanish vessels carrying out IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported) fishing in the WCPO area. At least two of the 17 Spanish vessels that use the harbour of Papeete to land their catches, the Nuevo Pleamar and the Mariane, are actually not authorized to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) responsible for managing fisheries in this area, maintains a record of vessels authorized to fish in the WCPFC convention area. However, neither the Nuevo Pleamar nor the Mariane are on the register, and harbour information reveals that these two vessels indeed called into the harbour of Papeete as recently as November 2007.
In concert with the launch of this report, Oceana is cautioning the members of the WCPFC, who meet this week for their fourth annual meeting on the island of Guam in the Pacific, about the activities of the European Union fleets catching shark in the WCPO area. In addition to the specific activities uncovered by Oceana researchers, the marine conservation organisation highlights the fact that the majority of the 96 EU vessels recently authorized to fish in WCPO area are targeting sharks in largely unmanaged fisheries.
"The targeted catch and the trade of shark fins in countries where it is prohibited or restricted, is scandalous," commented Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Investigations for Oceana Europe. "The European Union, the second largest shark catching state in the world and the largest exporter of frozen shark fins, should lead shark conservation by example instead of undermining shark protection laws in countries with vulnerable ecosystems like French Polynesia. The EU should act at once to stop the IUU fishing by the Spanish vessels in the Pacific," continued Aguilar.
The WCPFC is a relatively new RFMO, and as such presents an important opportunity to establish progressive and precautionary management measures for sharks captured in its area of regulation. Oceana is urging the members of the WCPFC to prohibit fishing access for the EU vessels targeting sharks until the stocks are assessed, fishing quotas and other technical measures are introduced, shark by-catch is significantly reduced, and a sound European Community Plan of Action for sharks is implemented, as required by the WCPFC for countries fishing in its convention area.