EU promotes conservation efforts for two endangered shark species

Oceana welcomes the EU’s recent endorsement to protect the spurdog and porbeagle sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species.

Press Release Date: July 8, 2008

Location: Madrid


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Conservation efforts for other endangered European shark and ray species have also advanced recently. Still other species are in urgent need of protection.

Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, is welcoming a move made last week by the European Union to advance protection for two species of endangered sharks by proposing them for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), also known as the Bonn convention. Last Thursday, EU Member States and the European Commission proposed to list the spurdog and porbeagle sharks under this convention. 

Sharks are extremely slow growing and produce few young. As such, they are especially vulnerable to overfishing and their populations can take decades to recover. Currently, only two European shark species are protected under CMS: the great white shark and basking shark. Oceana urges all CMS contracting parties to adopt this proposal at the Conference of the Parties in December of this year. A listing on this convention would promote and encourage cooperation for regional conservation agreements for spurdog and porbeagle.

The spurdog (a small, schooling shark) and the porbeagle (a large and speedy relative of the great white) are highly valued in Europe for their meat and fins. Both species are classified as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic by the IUCN and scientists have repeatedly urged an end to targeted fishing for these both species. “It is sometimes difficult to achieve conservation measures for commercially valuable species, but these two species in particular are among the most severely depleted in European waters. Their fishing quotas are above scientific recommendations. I’m happy that the EU has proposed conservation measures for them. If passed in December, this will surely complement the fisheries regulations used to manage these species,” said Rebecca Greenberg, coordinator of Oceana’s shark campaign.

Last week, other conservation efforts were also advanced for the spurdog and porbeagle sharks. These two species were among the six species of endangered elasmobranches added to the OSAPR (Olso-Paris Convention) “list of threatened and/or declining species and habitats,” based on nominations by WWF and Germany. These species (porbeagle, spurdog, gulper shark, leafscape gulper shark, Portuguese dogfish and angelshark) were added to the list because of the significant declines in their populations and current threats they are faced with. As a contracting party to the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Northeast Atlantic, the European Commission is urged to take the need for protection of these species into account in their management decisions and actions.

These conservation advancements come on heels of recent scientific advice published by ICES, the body that provides scientific fisheries advice to the EU, on bottom-dwelling sharks and rays in Northern European waters (Celtic Seas, North Sea, and Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters). For example, ICES recommended that angelsharks and white skates, both classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, receive the “highest protection possible” in these northern waters. The scientists also recommended that targeted fishing for common skates and undulate rays cease.

“The European Commission has been receiving warnings from scientists for years on the severe depletion of certain shark and ray species, but officials have lagged in providing these vulnerable creatures with the protection they require. Too many species are being caught beyond their recovery potential and there is a real chance some of these species may become locally extinct,” commented Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe. “The EU has made a commendable move with proposing protection for the spurdog and porbeagle under the CMS, but it also has a great responsibility for ensuring the protection of other severely depleted species as urged by scientific bodies.”