On February 23 in Valencia, Spain, Shark Alliance EU Policy Director, Sonja Fordham, was the featured speaker for a special lecture series on sharks hosted by the world-famous City of Arts and Sciences and held at its breathtaking aquarium, the “Oceanográfico”. Addressing an audience of nearly 200 scientists, aquarists, students and concerned citizens, against an enormous coral reef backdrop, Ms. Fordham explained the plight of sharks and the importance of the European Union (EU) to global shark policy.
The evening started with a showing of the Trillium Films shark documentary, “Stewards of the Reef”. In a presentation following the film, Ms. Fordham focused on immediate opportunities to improve the outlook for sharks through EU regulation and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In particular, she detailed the need to 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 to ensure the success of proposals to list commercially valuable shark species (spiny dogfish, porbeagle, oceanic whitetip and scalloped hammerhead) under CITES at the Conference of the Parties in March. Ms. Fordham highlighted the critical role of Spain, a major shark fishing power and current holder of the EU Presidency, in the associated deliberations, and called on Spanish citizens to urge their government to work for these objectives as a step toward improved stewardship of sharks. The event ended with a question and answer session, moderated by the Oceanográfico’s director of research.
The Oceanográfico, Europe’s largest aquarium, showcases species from the world’s main marine ecosystems, including the Mediterranean, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, and the Arctic. The various tanks are home to more than 45,000 individuals from 500 different species, including myriad sharks, skates, rays and sawfish. Since opening in 2003, the aquarium has welcomed more than nine million visitors and served as a venue for numerous cutting-edge exhibitions and congresses, as well as research projects and workshops held in collaboration with Spanish and international institutions. Through these programmes, Oceanográfico aims to recover protected animal and plant species, and inspire its visitors to respect the environment.
Noted shark experts, Sarah Fowler, John Musick, Bernard Seret and Ramon Bonfil were among the previous speakers in the shark lecture series.
The Shark Alliance is deeply grateful to the staff of the Oceanográfico and the Foundation for the City of Arts and Sciences for providing this excellent, educational opportunity and associated hospitality.