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Blog Posts by: Allison Perry

My first day on board this expedition, as I join for the final week of work in the deep areas surrounding the beautiful Aeolians. I was last in Salina nearly two years ago, participating in a think tank hosted by the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, in which we discussed potential ways forward for creating a marine protected area.

This morning began with a sense of anticipation, with everyone on board eager to see the broken motor of the Ranger fixed, and get back out to work at sea. Yesterday the captain managed to secure the replacement part we needed (after an adventure to a tiny village on the island of Malta) - but we needed to see whether it would fit, and, once in place, would have the Ranger up and running again.

Today was our first real day out at sea, ready with both ROV and divers to begin exploring the underwater beauty of the Sound, starting with the Swedish side. There is always a sense of anticipation as the ROV descends – what lies below, and will the conditions allow us to have a close look? In the Sound, one of the main challenges is dealing with the currents, which can be strong, change suddenly, and often run in different directions at different depths.

Last week, Oceana attended an international meeting on blue sharks that was held in Tenerife, Spain, by ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).  The meeting was the first of two for this year’s assessment of blue sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea – the first ICCAT assessment that has been done for this species since 2008.

Important fisheries

The intriguing species that live in the deep-sea, hundreds of metres below the ocean’s surface, are some of the least suitable fish in the world for supporting commercial fisheries. Physiologically, they have adapted to life in a cold, dark environment where resources are patchy and in scarce supply. As a result, biological processes happen on a much slower timescale for many deep-sea fish than for species that live in shallow waters; they grow slowly, they begin to reproduce at a late age, and can live for many years.

It’s official! Five species of threatened sharks, and two species of manta rays have been added to Appendix II of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). After several days of suspense since the listings were first approved on Monday, the protections were finalised today in the plenary session of the 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok.

History was made today in Bangkok, when Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) voted to protect five species of sharks and two species of manta rays under Appendix II. The seven protected species are: oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead (S. mokarran), smooth hammerhead (S. zygaena), oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) and reef manta ray (M. alfredi).

All eyes in the shark conservation world are on Bangkok, where one of the most important conservation meetings kicked off on Sunday. Countries that are Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) are meeting to discuss and decide on the protection of species that are threatened by international trade – including sharks and rays.

We took a huge step forward today, with the Fisheries Committee vote on the EU shark finning ban. The Committee voted to close major loopholes in the ban, which allowed some countries (namely Spain and Portugal) to land sharks with their fins already removed from their body, in separate ports, at separate times (making it very difficult to monitor whether the finning ban is being followed properly).