Oceana expects upcoming EU shark action plan to include concrete and effective conservation measures

Oceana’s new report highlights how EU countries are responsible for over 50% of worldwide shark meat imports, with many other shark products commonly consumed and traded

Press Release Date: May 19, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

The European Commission is scheduled to present this Thursday 5 February the long awaited European Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Oceana expects this plan to include an effective response to the fact that these threatened animals have been targeted in fisheries left largely without regulation. The reason behind these fisheries is the widespread commercialization and use of shark products by European consumers, as illustrated in the just released Oceana report, “From the Head to Tail: How European nations commercialise shark products”.


This report outlines the major role EU countries play in fisheries, consumption and the international trade of sharks and shark products, from meat and fins to cartilage and skins,” says Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner for Oceana Europe. In 2005, the EU was responsible for 56% of worldwide shark meat imports and 32% of worldwide exports. In 2006, EU countries (mainly Spain, Portugal, France and Germany) imported more than 40,000 tons of shark meat.


Extensive declines in shark populations are mainly due to fisheries overexploitation, since the particular biological characteristics of these species make them extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Moreover, fisheries targeting sharks currently have little regulation and many threatened species are left without protection. One-third of European populations of sharks and rays are now threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.


European Union fishing fleets are main actors in shark fisheries and trade and we hope that with this Plan of Action, the EU will now assume a leading role in developing policy such as catch limits for sustainable and precautionary shark exploitation” explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe. The plan aims to improve the status of sharks both in and out of EU waters by enhancing controls on fishing, trade and habitat protection, and sets the stage for future legislation to be implemented.


Sharks are mainly hunted for their fins to produce the traditional Asian dish of shark fin soup, making fins the most valuable shark product. Three European countries- the Netherlands, France and Spain- were found to be involved in the shark fin trade in 2005. Spain leads participation in the shark fin market, providing approximately 95% of all the fins exported by Europe.


Spain is the largest exporter of frozen shark fins to the Hong Kong market, the single biggest shark fin market in the world. Italy is Europe’s largest consumer of shark meat, and second biggest importer. The UK leads Europe’s catches of deep-sea sharks, harvested for liver oil which is processed in France into a cosmetics ingredient called “squalene”. The use and trade of other shark products in Europe, including shark cartilage in health supplements and shark skin as a leather product, are detailed in the Oceana report as well. “The strong and widespread EU involvement in shark fishing and trade is exactly why we urgently need effective action in this Plan,” concluded Greenberg.


Oceana recommends the following specific measures be included in the Plan of Action:


  • Establishment of fishing limits for commercially targeted species and prohibitions for endangered species.
  • Strengthening of the European Union shark finning prohibition and closure of the loopholes in the regulation.
  • Minimization of shark by-catch.
  • Identification and full protection of threatened shark species and their 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