Migratory sharks up for getting a conservation boost at the convention on migratory species in Rome

Oceana calls on the Parties to take action to safeguard the future of sharks.

Press Release Date: December 18, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Today in Rome, Italy, parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) will decide on boosting conservation initiatives for four shark species. Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, hopes the parties to the convention agree on listing these species on Appendix II of the Convention. The shark species up for consideration are the porbeagle, spurdog, shortfin mako and longfin mako.

“The highly migratory nature of many shark species places them outside the responsibility of specific countries, and thus a global approach is urgently needed to complement any possible  national or EU action,” declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe. “A listing is a first step for establishing effective international shark management policies based on a precautionary and ecosystem based approach,” Pastor concluded.

CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and the places they live. Appendix II of this convention lists migratory species which have an unfavorable conservation status and which require or would benefit from international agreements and cooperation for their conservation and management. The listing would promote and foster effective international cooperation efforts among parties and relevant institutions.

The EU has recently proposed several shark conservation initiatives at different regional agreement meetings and the publication of an EU Plan of Action for sharks is expected in the next coming months. For CMS, the European Union put forth the proposals for porbeagle and spurdog. These are two highly migratory species caught as target species and by-catch for the valuable meat and fins. Recently, the European Commission proposed a zero catch in EU fisheries for these two species, highlighting their depleted status and the need for effective conservation measures. The European Fisheries Council will decide on these measures from the 17-19 December.

The resolutions for the shortfin and longfin makos were put forth by Croatia. These species have low biological productivity and high vulnerability, leading to an elevated risk of overexploitation even at low levels of mortality in by-catch and target fisheries. Again reinforcing the need to conserve these species, the European Union presented a proposal to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body responsible for managing fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean, last month in Marrakesh in an effort to limit fishing effort and catches of shortfin mako. After continuous debate, this proposal was finally withdrawn.

Research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates that nearly half of all migratory shark species are threatened with extinction. These species are confronted with numerous threats, above all overfishing along migration routes and habitat degradation, by shrinkage or deterioration, in breeding and feeding areas. Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner for Oceana in Europe, points out: “Scientists note that there are about 35 migratory shark species that would benefit from a CMS listing, and we hope that the future will bring consideration to many of these species. But for the four species up for adoption this year, we shouldn’t wait. Action should be taken now to safeguard their future.”

Notes to the Editor

Sharks species already listed in CMS:

  1. White shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
  2. Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
  3. Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

The four shark species being discussed with a view to possible adoption are:

  1. Porgbeagle (Lamna nasus): a large, highly migratory, schooling, coastal and oceanic species closely related to the great white shark. This species is slow-growing, late to mature, and produces small litters, making it consequently highly vulnerable to fisheries overexploitation. It is a target and utilized by-catch species for its high value meat.
  2. Spurdog (Squalus acanthias): a small migratory species, common in temperate and boreal continental shelves. This species is exceptionally slow-growing, very late to mature, produces small litters, and has an extremely long gestational period (two years), making it highly vulnerable to overfishing. Its aggregating behaviour increases vulnerability to targeted fishing. It is caught for its meat, liver oil and fins.
  3. Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus): a wide-ranging pelagic species found in subtropical waters. This species has extremely low biological productivity and high vulnerability, leading to an elevated risk of overexploitation even at low levels of mortality in by-catch and target fisheries. It is caught for its meat and fins all around the world.
  4. Longfin mako (Isurus paucus): a widely-distributed tropical species that grows to large sizes and has low fecundity. Its low reproductive capacity makes it highly susceptible to depletion by fisheries exploitation. It is a utilized by-catch species for its valuable fins.