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November 13, 2015

Who takes care of Atlantic sharks?

*** Local Caption *** Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) in the fresh market in Vigo, Spain. Sharks campaign. September 2006. Tintoreras (Prionace glauca) en la lonja de Vigo, España. Campaña de tiburones. Septiembre 2006


Despite its name, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is in in charge of ensuring the sustainable management of many fish species including sharks. Over the last few decades, catches of commercially fished sharks have continually increased, however no proper management measures have been put in place and catches continue to be unregulated.

Oceana is therefore calling on ICCAT to create and enforce management measures for all sharks targeted by the fishery and conservation measures for those most vulnerable. These measures should:

1. Require sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached

Shark-finning (cutting off the fins and throwing the dying shark overboard) is still permitted in the Atlantic. However, contracting parties that constitute more than 75% of reported shark catches, including the EU, follow a ‘fins-attached’ policy. This clearly indicates that banning this savage practice to all the Atlantic is feasible. A minority of Asian countries have continued to block this measure for six years in a row.

2. Set science-based catch limits for major commercially fished shark species

Blue sharks rank 4th out of all ICCAT species (tunas and swordfish included) in terms of catch volumes reported. However, their fishery lacks of any management, and precautionary catch limits should be adopted. In the case of shortfin mako, ICCAT scientists recommend that catches are not increased until more reliable stock assessment results are available.

3. Prohibit the retention, landing, and trade of highly threatened species

Porbeagle sharks are Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean and North-East Atlantic, and Endangered in the North-West Atlantic. A 2009 assessment concluded that stocks were so depleted that a recovery would take decades. Conservation measures have been adopted by some countries and international bodies, but none of them apply to the whole Atlantic – that is ICCAT’s responsibility.

Oceana is an observer to ICCAT, so please stay tuned – we will have news to share soon!


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