Europeans come together in support of shark conservation

Europeans come together in support of shark conservation

The Shark Alliance, a coalition of more than 55 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to conserving sharks, announces the start of the second annual European Shark Week, which runs through 19 October.  Through a wide range of celebratory activities across Europe, Shark Alliance member groups aim to demonstrate to European Union (EU) officials the growing public support for improving shark conservation policies.

Over the coming week, aquariums, dive groups and conservation organisations in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Malta, Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands and Portugal will host events to raise awareness of the urgent need to end overfishing of sharks and prevent greater harm to the ecosystems they maintain.

Central to the week is an effort to get EU citizens to express their concerns for sharks directly to their national fisheries and environment ministers through personal letters or by signing a Shark Alliance petition.

“We are very excited by the launch of the second year of European Shark Week”, said Uta Bellion, Shark Alliance Director. “Public support is key to advancing effective conservation policies for sharks.”

Sharks and related rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they generally grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young.   Most European populations of sharks and rays are overfished; one third are threatened with extinction.  Despite these grave statistics, most EU shark and ray fishing remains unregulated and scientific advice for catch limits is rarely heeded.  Moreover, the EU ban on the wasteful practice of shark “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) is the weakest in the world.  The European Commission is expected to complete a long-awaited European Plan of Action for Sharks, which aims to strengthen the finning ban and prompt new shark fishing limits, by December.  EU Member States will formally respond to the Plan in early 2009.

“Europe is a significant player in the global catch, consumption, and trade of sharks and yet has a very poor record for limiting shark fishing to sustainable levels.,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director. “We are hopeful that the public support expressed through European Shark Week will encourage policy makers to embrace a sound Shark Action Plan and work to promptly carry out related shark conservation initiatives.”

For more than two years, the Shark Alliance has worked to ensure that the European Plan of Action for Sharks is based on science and the precautionary approach and results in meaningful restrictions on shark catch, protection for endangered species, and a more effective ban on shark finning.

Events to mark European Shark Week 2008 include:

NETHERLANDS: Dutch divers will attempt to break the world record for the most divers underwater at one time.

ITALY: Celebrated cartoonist Carlo Lux, creator of Pasqualo, will be exhibiting his work in the Milan aquarium.

SPAIN: Aquariums will host sleepovers with sharks for children.

FINLAND: Shark Alliance Policy Director, Sonja Fordham, will give a lecture on shark conservation at the Helsinki Sea Life Centre.

For further information or to arrange media interviews:

Mona Samari, +44 (0) 7515 828 939