Spain protects more than ten species of sharks and rays

Spain protects more than ten species of sharks and rays

The Shark Alliance welcomes the inclusion, for the first time, of species of sharks and rays in the Spanish List of Wild Species under Special Protection (Listado de Especies Silvestres en Régimen de Protección Especial, in Spanish).

On 23 February 2011, the Spanish Official State Gazette published Royal Decree Nº139/2011, developing the List of Wild Species under Special Protection and the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species. Inclusion in these lists prohibits the capture, injury, trade, import and export of these species, and requires periodic evaluations of their conservation status.

The species included in the List of Wild Species under Special Protection are:

  • White shark (Carcharodon carcharias), Mediterranean population.
  • Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), Mediterranean and Iberian Atlantic populations.
  • Giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), Mediterranean population.
  • All species of hammerhead sharks (genera Sphyrna and Eusphyra) and thresher sharks (genus Alopias).

Inclusion in the List of Wild Species is a step forwards in the protection of these vulnerable species, especially for the giant devil ray, which was the only species that did not previously enjoy any measure of protection on a national or European level.

The targeted or accidental capture of thresher and hammerhead sharks by the Spanish fishing fleet was prohibited in 2009 (Order ARM/2689/2009). For several years, white and basking sharks have also been protected in the European Union, thus prohibiting their capture or landing (including the landing of those captured accidentally); most recently under Council Regulation (EU) Nº57/2011.

The Shark Alliance, however, regrets that none of these species have been included in the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species which would have required the development of population recovery plans. The Shark Alliance also regrets that other endangered species also in the need of such protection were not included.

The Shark Alliance encourages the Spanish Government to continue efforts towards the protection of endangered species of sharks and rays. Angel sharks (Squatina spp.), guitarfishes (Rhinobatos spp.), and the white skate (Rostroraja alba) are some of the species that should also be included in the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species.

Notes to Editors:

Giant devil rays are subject to unsustainable bycatch in longline, purse seine and bottom trawling fisheries. This species is listed as Endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Guitarfishes, whose fins are particularly valuable for use in shark fin soup, are classified by the IUCN as Endangered. In the Mediterranean, guitarfishes were once common, but are now assumed locally extinct in some areas. Angel sharks off Spanish coast and Mediterranean white skates are listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered and some local populations of these bottom-dwelling shark and ray species have already been wiped out, mainly as unintended bycatch in fisheries for other species.

The Shark Alliance has been working with the Spanish and other EU governments since its creation in 2006. In February 2009, the European Commission adopted the Community Plan of Action for the Conservation of Sharks which requires national governments to enact protection for endangered shark species.

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. 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.