Spotlight on Sharks at World Conservation Congress

IUCN Members Call for Improved Shark Conservation through Multiple Initiatives

Spotlight on Sharks at World Conservation Congress

Yesterday’s close of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress brings new hope for conserving sharks in European waters and beyond.  The Congress featured three motions for IUCN Resolutions and a well-attended workshop focused on improving policies on shark fishing and finning (the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark´s fins and discarding the body at sea) in the European Union (EU) and globally, all with favourable results.

“The high level of attention to sharks at this IUCN Congress reflects growing recognition among governments and conservationists of the urgent need for stronger controls on shark fishing in Europe and around the world,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director.  “We are encouraged by the common ground identified at our productive, EU-focused workshop and by the resounding success of the three shark conservation motions proposed by our member groups and colleagues.” 

During the Congress, the Shark Alliance co-hosted with Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Pretoma) and the European Bureau for Conservation and Development a workshop aimed at finding common ground among diverse interests on improvements to EU shark fishing policies.  Panelists representing conservation groups, the Spanish fishing industry, IUCN and the governments of Spain and the UK reached nine points of consensus.  Common recommendations for immediate action included calls for the EU to heed scientific advice from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) regarding shark and ray fishing limits and to propose protection for vulnerable bigeye thresher and porbeagle sharks at the next meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).          

The need to set EU shark and ray fishing limits in line with scientific advice was underscored through a successful motion from the Pew Charitable Trusts on the developing EU Plan of Action for sharks.  The resulting Resolution urges the European Commission to advance through the Plan shark and ray catch limits based on science and the precautionary approach, protection for shark and ray species classified by IUCN as Endangered or Critically Endangered, and an enforceable ban on shark finning, in line with relevant IUCN Resolutions.

The relevant IUCN Resolution on shark finning was amended moments later through a motion sponsored by Pretoma. The new finning Resolution calls on governments to require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, in order to combat shark finning and facilitate the identification of species in shark catches.  Spain and Japan expressed their disagreement with the motion and abstained from the vote.  Most conservationists and scientists agree that a requirement to land sharks with fins attached is by far the most reliable means of enforcing a finning ban.

Another successful motion addressing global conservation of sharks, sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, calls on countries to secure sound national and international fishing limits for migratory and oceanic sharks through various means. In particular, the resulting Resolution calls on Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to support appropriate additions of shark species to the CMS Appendices and urges all countries to participate in the development and implementation of an effective global instrument for migratory sharks, currently under development. 

“The overwhelming support for safeguarding sharks demonstrated during the IUCN Congress must be carried forward in the coming months in order to seize important opportunities for concrete shark conservation actions,” added Fordham. 

Specifically, the Shark Alliance looks forward to working with IUCN colleagues and European citizens to promote:

  • The first international catch limits for sharks at ICCAT
  • Science-based EU shark and ray fishing limits for 2009
  • A solid EU Plan of Action for sharks
  • The addition of spiny dogfish, mako and porbeagle sharks to CMS Appendix II, and
  • A binding, global agreement for sharks under CMS.         

Notes to Editors:

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 57 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to improving EU shark fishing policies.

The IUCN Resolution on Building an Effective EU Plan of Action for Sharks was supported by 98.6% of the governments voting and 92.8% of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) voting.

The IUCN Resolution on Conserving Migratory and Oceanic Sharks received support from 100% of governments voting and 96.9% of NGOs voting.

The IUCN Resolution on a Global Policy Against Shark Finning was supported by 98.3% of government votes and 96.6% of NGO votes.

ICES has recommended that there be no fishing for porbeagle sharks, white skates, spiny dogfish, angel sharks, common skates, undulate rays, and deepwater sharks.   The European Council of Ministers will agree the 2009 fishing limits for deepwater sharks on November.

The annual meeting of ICCAT takes place November 17-24 in Morocco.

CMS Parties will debate proposals to the CMS Appendices during their Conference of the Parties (CoP), December 1-5 in Rome.  The second meeting to agree the CMS shark instrument takes place immediately following the CMS CoP: December 6-8 in Rome. 

The EU has proposed that spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks be added to CMS Appendix II.  CMS Appendix II listings encourage regional cooperation on conservation actions.  Croatia has proposed adding two species of mako sharks on CMS Appendix II.

European Shark Week is taking place between the 11th - 19th 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.

For further information and media interviews:

Sophie Hulme, +44 7973 712 869