Despite EU rules to protect it, a rare porbeagle shark was auctioned last week at Scheveningen, in the Netherlands. The nearly three meter long shark was caught in the Southern North Sea and sold to a fishmonger from Katwijk who put the animal on the menu.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Northeast Atlantic porbeagle population as Critically Endangered. In 2010, based on scientific advice, the EU set Atlantic porbeagle fishing quotas at zero and proposed international porbeagle protections under fisheries and wildlife treaties, prompting global attention for the imperiled species.
"We are shocked that Dutch fishermen and officials could be so unaware of regulations aimed at protecting one of Europe’s most endangered sharks, " said Irene Kingma, Shark Alliance coordinator for the Netherlands. "National enforcement is essential to effective conservation of migratory EU species. This disturbing news shows that the Netherlands has a long way to go in ensuring that fishermen understand, respect, and are held accountable to the rules.”
Porbeagle meat is exceptionally prized, particularly in European countries. Porbeagle fins are also sent to Asia for use in shark fin soup. The Netherlands is one of the only North Atlantic European countries to not report any porbeagle landings (since 1970). Norway and Denmark had substantial porbeagle fisheries last century that ended in collapse.
“Tragically, the auctioned shark was an adult female,” said Paddy Walker, chairperson of the Dutch Elasmobranch Association. “Female porbeagles do not reach sexual maturity until their teen years and then produce just four pups on average at a time, making this species extremely vulnerable to overfishing. The endangered state of porbeagle in the North Sea means that each adult female is important for conservation."
Earlier this month, the Shark Alliance launched a petition calling on all EU fisheries ministers to fulfill the commitments of the EU Community Plan of Action for Sharks, which, among other things, encourages EU Member States to provide protection for endangered shark species.
“Sharks, as top predators, play an essential role for the health of our oceans. We call on European citizens to make their voices heard by signing the petition and calling for much needed protection of sharks from overexploitation” said Irene Kingma.
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The EU Community Plan of Action (CPOA) for Sharks was endorsed by the Council of Fisheries Ministers in April 2009. Through national, EU, and international actions, the Plan set the course for improving information about shark fisheries, setting science-based fishing limits, ending shark overfishing, affording special attention to threatened shark species, and closing loopholes in the EU ban on shark finning.
Since passage of the CPOA, the EU has closed Atlantic EU porbeagle fisheries, prohibited catches by EU fishermen in international waters, proposed Atlantic-wide protection for the species through the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and attempted to list the species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2008, with EU support, porbeagle sharks were listed under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR) Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Northeast Atlantic.
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.
The Dutch Elasmobranch Society (Nederlandse Elasmobranchen Vereniging, NEV) was founded in April 2010 and aims to protect and preserve all shark, skate and ray species (elasmobranchs) in Dutch waters and in the waters fished by Dutch fishermen. NEV wants to stimulate research on elasmobranch fishes in the Netherlands and to advance scientific publications by Dutch scientists. NEV promotes sustainable management of elasmobranch stocks and works to increase the public awareness on the vulnerability and the need to manage and protect elasmobranch fishes.