This menu organises news, documents, projects, profiles and links into key topics, and the menu along the top divides the contents of the site by type.
18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Sharks: Hunted for fins
In a bid to halt the depletion of pelagic sharks in the worlds oceans - where they are hunted for their fins - conservation group Oceana is calling for better European fisheries management.
Oceana, the international organisation dedicated to conserving and protecting the oceans, has carried out a year-long investigation into European shark fisheries and trade around the world.
The results will be published throughout the summer and fall in a series of scientific reports aimed at shedding light on this unmanaged fishery.
The first of these reports, published today, reveals that sharks are targeted species hunted by European pelagic longline vessels for their valuable fins. The report concludes that these vulnerable species, targeted in directed fisheries, must be managed under a European fisheries management plan that would allow for their sustainable exploitation and stop their current decline.
The European Union includes some of the most important shark fishing nations in the world. In 2005, European Union countries together reported the second largest elasmobranch (sharks, rays and skates) catch in the world, with nearly 100,000 metric tons. Spain took the largest share at around 39% of the EU total, followed by France (22%), Portugal (16%) and the UK (11%).
Traditionally, sharks were considered as bycatch (incidental catches) in fisheries for highly migratory species like tuna and swordfish. Today, sharks are the main targeted species of these fisheries comprised of more than 200 efficient European surface longliners (mostly Spanish and Portuguese) operating all over the world. Spain possesses, by far, the biggest European longline fleet. The Spanish longliners catch in the Atlantic Ocean is comprised of more than 67% sharks, with swordfish and tuna representing only a small portion of the catch. Spain is also one of the most important players in the world market for shark fins.
The revised European Union Common Fisheries Policy, agreed in 2002, states that catch and/or effort limits should be established for commercial fish stocks. However, this has not yet been done for these commercialised species.
Despite the fact that sharks have been commercialised for decades, it is incomprehensible that this policy has not been applied to shark fisheries, said Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe.
Sharks fins are nowadays among the most valuable products taken from the sea, and sharks are targeted in directed fisheries. They must be recognised as commercially exploited species and their exploitation must be controlled and regulated under a fisheries management plan, adds Aguilar.
The reason for the directed hunt, and for increasing pelagic shark catches in general, is the rising demand for shark fins used for the traditional soup in China. This hunt for pelagic sharks leads to the overfishing and depletion of their populations around the world.
The main species taken by European longliners in the Atlantic Ocean are blue shark, mako shark, thresher shark and hammerhead shark.
Thresher and mako sharks are considered globally vulnerable by IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List criteria, and the hammerhead shark is considered endangered. The blue shark, the worlds most abundant and heavily fished pelagic shark, is considered near threatened and scientists have noted declines of 50-70% of this species in the North Atlantic.
click to view source website
Impacts/Environment, biodiversity and fish stocks