European Commission Follows through with Plans to Eliminate Deep Sea Shark Fishing

European Commission Follows through with Plans to Eliminate Deep Sea Shark Fishing

The European Commission announced its highly anticipated proposals for 2009 and 2010 catch limits for deep sea fishes, including a number of deepwater shark species sought for their meat and rich, liver oil.

The Commission has proposed that allowable deep sea shark catches be cut in half next year and eliminated by 2010; these proposals follow a strategy announced in 2006 to phase out deep sea shark fishing over four years. Scientists from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) first recommended that deep sea shark catch limits be set at zero in 2005.

Shark Alliance Policy Director, Sonja Fordham, offered the following statement in response to the proposals:

“Whereas we are pleased that the Commission has not backed off on its plan to eliminate fishing for exceptionally slow-growing and depleted deep sea sharks by 2010, we are disappointed by the delays in enacting the necessary moratorium. The two principal species taken in deep sea shark fisheries are classified by the IUCN as ‘Endangered’ and deserve full, immediate implementation of ICES recommendations. Strict adherence to scientific advice is especially urgent for sharks and essential for rebuilding depleted populations, avoiding additional fishery closures, and effectively conserving these key components of healthy ocean ecosystems. ”

Deep sea sharks are fished for their meat as well as the valuable oil from their large livers which is used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Most species live hundreds of meters down in the ocean. The Portuguese dogfish is one of the deepest dwelling sharks, reported from 3700 meters. Adaptations to this environment reflected in most deep sea shark species include dark skin and glowing, green eyes.

In their catch limit proposal announcement, the Commission asserted that the precautionary approach is paramount in these cases because deep sea species are long-lived and reproduce very late in life.

Notes for Editors:

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 55 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving EU fishing policies.

European deep sea sharks include: Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis), Leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus), Birdbeak dogfish (Deania calceus), Kitefin shark (Dalatias licha), Greater lanternshark (Etmopterus princeps), Velvet belly (Etmopterus spinax), Black dogfish (Centroscyllium fabricii), Gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus), Blackmouth dogfish (Galeus melastomus), Mouse catshark (Galeus murinus), Iceland catshark (Apristuris spp.). In ICES Area XII, deep sea sharks include Rough longnose dogfish (Deania histricosa) and Arrowhead dogfish (Deania profundorum).

Gulper sharks are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic. Leafscale gulper sharks and Portuguese dogfish in this region are categorized as Endangered.

The Commission began reducing catch limits for some of Europe’s more vulnerable deep sea fish in 2006 with a view to reaching zero catch within four years. The Commission decided to gradually phase out the fishery in order to give the fishing industry time to “adjust and refocus“.

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