The largest shark fishing country in Europe is in agreement with Oceana on three groundbreaking conservation matters
Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, is welcoming a commitment by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs to advance national legislation that would better manage shark fisheries and explore options for improving finning prohibitions.
Sharks are vulnerable species, and many have historically been caught by European fleets without any regulation. While Europe is home to nearly 140 shark and related ray species, over one third of their populations are threatened with extinction, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Spain represents Europe’s top shark fishing and trading nation, but other important players are the United Kingdom, Portugal and France. These nations’ fleets are involved in shark fisheries all around the world, catching numerous targeted and un-targeted species. Oceana has been campaigning for shark conservation for years, and has continually urged the Spanish government to engage in responsible shark management, becoming a leader and setting an example for the rest of Europe.
“The announcement by Minister Elena Espinosa to advance national shark management legislation represents a groundbreaking move for this country. Spain plays an important role in shark fisheries, and is now in a position to become a leader for the rest of Europe in shark fisheries regulation and conservation,” declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe.
The Spanish Ministry has made commitments to advance on three issues. First, directed fishing of all hammerhead and all thresher shark species will be prohibited. These sharks are among the most vulnerable in the world, and are caught in longline fisheries targeting tuna, swordfish and other shark species. Their low reproductive rates place them at particular risk of overfishing and this measure would help protect them.
Secondly, effort and catch limits will be put in place for blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks. These are the two sharks most targeted and commercialised by the Spanish longliner fleet. These two species are highly vulnerable to fisheries exploitation, and this measure would ensure sustainable fisheries in the long-term.
Finally, the Ministry has committed to undertaking a “fins attached” pilot project. This project will explore the viability of landing sharks at port with their fins attached in a natural manner, instead of separating them on board while at sea. Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Investigation for Oceana Europe explains, “The “fins attached” policy is widely considered the most efficient and effective way of ensuring compliance with prohibitions on shark finning, which is when fins are cut from a shark and the body is thrown overboard. We hope that this pilot project demonstrates that the “fins attached” practice is a viable option for European surface longliners catching sharks.”
This increasing demand for better shark conservation will be addressed the first week in February, when the European Commission will publish the long-awaited Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. This plan intends to improve the status of sharks both in and out of EU waters by enhancing controls on fishing, trade and habitat protection. Oceana will be present for the official publication of the Plan of Action on 5 February in a press conference in Brussels.
“We welcome and support the commitments made by the Minister,” concluded Pastor, “We hope to assist the Ministry as they move forward and urge the Minister to take these good commitments to her European colleagues and implement them at a European level.”