Spain: The Shark Alliance is yet again expressing outrage over the continued illegal take of basking sharks in Spain. The shark was landed in Galicia on March 19th; only eighteen days after two of these gentle giants were landed in Northern Spain.
EU vessels have been prohibited from fishing, retaining or landing basking sharks, even if the catch is accidental, since 2006. The coalition continues to call on Spain and the European Commission to enforce the basking shark rules and educate fishermen that the species is both endangered and legally protected.
A year ago, the European Commission released its Shark Plan of Action, which includes commitments to educate fishermen and the public about shark conservation measures. On March 1st 2010, an eight meter basking shark was landed in Galicia and the next day a four meter juvenile male was brought to shore in Asturias. In May 2009, two seven meter-long basking sharks were taken illegally from the waters off Valencia by one Spanish fishing vessel within the span of 24 hours. In December 2009, a baby basking shark was found on display at a supermarket fish counter in Santander.
The harmless, plankton-feeding basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.
Shark Alliance member group, Submon, released, "SPAIN: A driving force in shark fishing around the world" last year. In the report, author Alex Bartoli details poor enforcement and lack of awareness of shark protections in his country.
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The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 85 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations dedicated to improving global shark conservation policies.
The Shark Alliance was initiated and is coordinated by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-government organisation that is working to end overfishing in the world's oceans.
Basking shark livers are valuable for oil which is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. A single basking shark fin can fetch tens of thousands of euros for use as storefront advertising that a Chinese restaurant sells the delicacy “shark fin soup.” Basking shark fins are also used in this soup.
Basking sharks are listed under the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species, and several European conservation treaties.