Building Common Ground on EU Shark Conservation

The Shark Alliance, the European Bureau for Conservation and Development and Pretoma co-hosted a workshop aimed at agreeing points of common ground regarding European Union (EU) shark fishing policies.

The following abstract provided context for the workshop:

Sharks are among the oceans’ most vulnerable and vital animals. The EU is a major player in the global catch of sharks and yet most EU shark fisheries remain unregulated.  IUCN finds that Europe’s percentage of Threatened shark species (one third) is among the world’s highest. The European Commission is developing a Community Plan of Action (CPOA) for Sharks through which it has proposed strengthening the finning ban and establishing shark limits. There are varying viewpoints on EU shark management and priorities.

The workshop was chaired by Carl Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme and featured the following panelists:

  • Javier Garat, Secretary General of Cepesca (Spanish Fishing Confederation).
  • Rafael Centenera Ulecia, Fisheries Advisor to the Spanish Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs.
  • Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance and Shark Conservation Program Director for Ocean Conservancy.
  • Antonio Fernandez-Aguirre, Shark plan lead for the Directorate General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, European Commission
  • Sarah Fowler, Chair, IUCN Shark Specialist Group
  • Randall Arauz, Pretoma Program Director
  • Jo Myers, Senior Scientific Advisor for Defra

Panelists gave brief presentations that covered their general perspective on the shark issue and three proposals for consensus statements or measures related to EU shark management.  The presentations were followed by comments and questions from the audience and discussion of the panelists’ proposals.

The participants achieved their goals of focusing on possible steps forward, avoiding unproductive polarization, and identifying areas of consensus to inform upcoming decisions of the Commission and EU Member States with respect to shark fishing regulations at national, EU and international levels.  Specifically, the panellists found common ground on the following recommended actions:

  1. As long as fin to carcass ratios are used to enforce the EU finning ban, shark fins and bodies should be landed in the same port at the same time; 
  2. The EU should initiate a pilot project to study the feasibility and economic impacts of a fins attached policy;
  3. Statistical documentation and reporting of shark catches needs to be improved;
  4. Scientific advice from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) regarding shark and ray species should be implemented at national, EU and international levels;
  5. All Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) should freeze and work to reduce over time capacity in the international longline fisheries;
  6. RFMOs, particularly the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT ), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) should establish trade measures and catch documentation schemes for sharks, with a focus on the market for fins;
  7. The EU should propose and work to secure measures to protect bigeye threshers (Alopias superciliosus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus) and hammerheads (Sphyrna spp.) at the 2008 ICCAT annual meeting, and for hammerheads (Sphyrna spp.) and thresher sharks (Alopias spp.) at the next IATTC meeting (recognizing that the EU is a Party to ICCAT and an observer at IATTC);
  8. Regulations to implement measures set forth in the CPOA should be initiated as soon as possible (some immediately, others promptly after response from Council of Ministers in early 2009);
  9. Countries should use existing customs codes for sharks and rays more effectively and promote the development of an international framework for improved coding which differentiates among various shark species and products.
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