Options for European Shark Plan Revealed at Last

Conservationists see hope on the horizon in EU Commission initiative

Options for European Shark Plan Revealed at Last
A future for sharks? © Brian J. Skerry/ National Geographic Image Collection

The Shark Alliance is welcoming the release of the European Commission's consultation document for a Community Plan of Action (CPOA) for Sharks, which, at long last, addresses the plight of sharks and proposes a range of options for improvement.  The Commission document, released last night, is now subject to a two-month stakeholder comment period.  

“After decades of neglect, with devastating consequences for Europe's sharks, the Commission has at last come out of the gate with a solid blueprint for meaningful, corrective action,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance.  “Key elements still need work and vigilant champions, but for now, the document offers new hope for some of the world's most beleaguered shark populations.  We urge stakeholders at all levels to engage in seizing this opportunity to safeguard Europe's most depleted shark species and start a new era of responsible shark fishing.”

The thorough and relatively robust consultation document proposes many elements promoted by the Shark Alliance, including catch limits in line with scientific advice, special attention to endangered species, measures to strengthen the ban on shark finning, means to regulate and reduce bycatch, and educational programs to promote awareness among fishermen and the public.  Through these proposals - as well as multiple initiatives to improve shark data collection and deepen the understanding of sharks - the document demonstrates solid commitment to these vulnerable species, at least within the Commission.  The Shark Alliance is also expressing appreciation of the document's broad geographical and ecological scope.

With the 1999 adoption of the International Plan of Action for Sharks, the European Union (EU) endeavoured to produce a CPOA by 2001.  Shark Alliance member groups have called for EU shark conservation programmes for years and have campaigned in a targeted way for a sound CPOA since mid 2006. 

“Publication of the consultation document represents an important step forward for sharks and the members of the Alliance,” added Uta Bellion, Shark Alliance Coordinator.  “It has not been easy to get this far, but now, at least, the Commission has shown promise by putting a solid consultation document on the table.”

The document is open for comment until February 15 and will be further developed throughout 2008.  It is expected to be offered as an official Communication to the European Council and Parliament by the end of the year, after which time both entities will provide their views.