Big plans but little action for European shark protection

Oceana urges fisheries ministers to strengthen the Shark Action Plan and push for strict legislation

Press Release Date: May 19, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Today in Brussels the European Commission released the long-awaited Community Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, nearly a decade after the adoption of the FAO International Plan of Action on Sharks. The Community Plan has been eagerly anticipated by conservationists, as many of Europe’s shark and related ray populations have been depleted in the past 30 years, primarily due to fisheries overexploitation by large European shark fishing fleets.


Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, welcomes the publication of the Plan but is disappointed that it is not as ambitious as expected.


Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Investigation for Oceana Europe, said this regarding the newly released plan: “This Plan of Action had much potential for changing the direction in which Europe’s beleaguered shark populations are headed. Instead, we got a vague document which does not contain measures to achieve the goal of conservation and sustainable management of sharks. It appears to have been published out of political obligation. Key omissions include a commitment to the precautionary approach, and integration with existing EU and global environmental measures that aim to protect threatened sharks and their habitats”.


While the Plan of Action does include some positive aspects, including a shark discard ban and a requirement to land shark fins and bodies at the same time and in the same port, Oceana also notes that the adopted plan outlines only an unclear and gradual implementation timeline and lacks a mechanism to review effectiveness.


One of the most hotly debated issues concerned the EU’s regulation prohibiting shark finning. “At the very least, we were hoping for measures that accurately regulated the amounts of shark bodies and fins that could be landed in order to weed out illegal finning practices”, noted Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner with Oceana Europe. “Instead, the Commission wants to consider a possible review of the details of the regulation. This type of language just kicks the ball into the next Commission’s mandate instead of the current Commission making the real choices. This is especially disappointing considering that Spain, a major player in shark fisheries and trade, has already committed to adopting national shark legislation, including hard catch limits on commercialized species and a prohibition on fishing for vulnerable species.”


Oceana now looks to the Fisheries Ministers, whose turn it is to comment on the Commission’s communication and on the timing of measures. The EU Fisheries Ministers are scheduled to agree a set of conclusions at the April 2009 Fisheries Council meeting. Oceana urges Fisheries Ministers to act on the Commission’s vague language and to recommend priority issues and proposals for concrete legislation.


Oceana encourages the Fisheries Ministers to recommend specific legislation on:


  • Establishment of precautionary fishing limits for commercially targeted species and prohibitions on catching endangered species.
  • Full observer coverage on all vessels catching sharks;
  • Strengthening of the European Union shark finning prohibition and closure of the loopholes in the regulation.
  • The elimination of shark by-catch and discards;
  • Identification and full protection of sharks species categorized as Endangered or Critically endangered and their respective habitats.
  • Strengthening of shark fisheries monitoring and control.
  • Improvement in data collection for shark fisheries, species-specific trade and shark biology.





For more information access


The EU Action Plan for Sharks – Questions and Answers


From Head to Tail. How European Nations Commercialise Shark Products