The Shark Alliance welcomes Tuesday's decision by the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers to end all fishing for spurdog, to maintain the closure of the porbeagle shark fishery through 2011 and to reduce quotas for skates and rays.
"The Council's decisions represent a step forward for shark conservation and show a strong commitment from the European Union to implement its Plan of Action for Sharks," said Ali Hood, Director of conservation at the Shark Trust and member of the Shark Alliance.
"Both the European Commission and EU Council have acted in line with the Plan's pledge to follow scientific advice when setting fishing limits for inherently vulnerable sharks. We eagerly await further confirmation of the Commission's decision to protect endangered guitarfish".
Most sharks and rays can be easily overfished because they grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.
Porbeagle and spurdog sharks of the Northeast Atlantic are included on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.
Common guitarfish and blackchin guitarfish of EU waters are classified as Endangered on the Red List. Their range includes the Mediterranean where the new EU measures will not apply.
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Last December, the EU 2010 total allowable catches (TACs) agreed to end all fishing for porbeagle sharks and reduce by 90% fishing quotas for spurdog.
The International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which provides scientific advice for European fisheries management, recommends prohibiting the landing of porbeagle shark and setting spurdog TACs at zero.
The EU Shark Action Plan was endorsed by the Council of Fisheries Ministers in April 2009. The Plan aims to improve information about shark fisheries, set science-based fishing limits, end shark overfishing, pay special attention to threatened shark species, and close loopholes in the EU ban on shark finning (the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea), and includes actions at national, EU and international levels.
The main objectives of the 2009 Community Plan of Action for sharks include ensuring that targeted shark fisheries are sustainable and bycatch is properly regulated, yet nearly two years after the release of this plan, the two shark species making up the bulk of shark catches from EU longline fisheries remain unregulated. The EU has proposed international measures for:
through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), but has still to provide basic limits for these species for EU waters and vessels.
Last month, The EU Council of Fisheries Ministers further reduced the deep-sea shark TAC, allowing for only minimal bycatch and agreed a complete closure (zero TAC) for 2012. Four additional deep-sea shark species were included under this measure:
Established in 1997, the Shark Trust is the UK registered charity which works to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. The Shark Trust is: an effective and well respected advocate for sound shark management and protection; a founding member of the Shark Alliance; the Secretariat of the European Elasmobranch Association; and a membership organisation which provides a link between the public and the science community. The Trust works through cross-sectoral collaboration and where possible works with governments and industry to attain sustainable goals.
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 100 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies and is coordinated by the Pew Environment Group.