Oceana urges Fisheries Ministers to end fishing for critically endangered sharks in 2010

Oceana’s new report highlights how European fisheries laws, such as TACs and quotas, must be used to protect sharks and rays

Press Release Date: April 19, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

The EU Fisheries Council will meet 14-15 December to agree the 2010 TACs (Total Allowable Catches) for Community fleets. Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, is calling on Fisheries Ministers to end all fishing for porbeagle and spurdog sharks, both Critically Endangered[1] in European waters, as well as that for endangered skates and rays. Setting TACs in line with scientific advice is one of the key ways to safeguard the future of sharks and rays, according to Oceana in the new report The Race for Threatened Sharks.

Shark and ray populations have suffered major declines in the past few decades, and much of these loses are due to fishing pressure. “European Union fleets together rank second in world shark and ray catches, and they are catching these species not just here in Europe, but also in international waters and waters of third countries”, notes Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner with the environmental organization. “Thus, the EU has a responsibility to manage and protect sharks via fisheries laws and regulations here in Europe and all around the world.”

Oceana’s new report provides an overview of existing shark management and conservation measures under European fisheries laws, and shows what additional steps must be taken, in Europe and internationally, to prevent further depletion of shark populations. Fisheries management measures to be implemented include TACs, management and recovery plans, landing size regulations or landing prohibitions, by-catch limits and technical gear specifications. The EU must strive to implement these under European Union laws for EU fisheries, and also in bilateral agreements for the European fleets that fish in third-country waters, and via Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, for the EU fleets operating on the high seas.

According to EU fisheries policy, catch or effort limits must be established for unmanaged stocks to ensure sustainable exploitation. However, Oceana points out that TACs are only set for a few shark species, including deep-sea sharks, spurdogs and porbeagle. Next week, EU Fisheries Ministers will agree on 2010 TACs for these last two species, both of which are highly consumed in Europe but in danger of extinction. Oceana is urging that Ministers agree TACs in line with scientific advice, as set forth in the EU Plan of Action for the Conservation of Sharks.

Specifically, Oceana recommends for 2010:

  • Zero TACs for porbeagle and spurdog with a prohibition on landings
  • Reduction in TACs for rays and skates, in line with scientific advice
  • Prohibition on fishing and landings of angelsharks, common skates, undulate rays and white skates in all EC waters.

 ICES[2] scientists have recommended against targeted fishing for porbeagle and spurdog for years, given their poor stock status. Scientists have warned that spurdog stocks are in danger of collapse, and recommend a zero TAC. While the Commission followed scientific advice last year in their proposal, this year they only proposed a 90% TAC decrease. Oceana warns that this recommendation is not in line with the objectives of the Plan of Action for Sharks, and also warns against the implementation of any misleading by-catch TAC. For porbeagle, ICES again recommends no landing for this species. Last year the Commission proposed a zero TAC for porbeagle, but this year has yet to present a proposal. Oceana reminds Fisheries Ministers of the obligation to follow scientific advice, and recommends against any by-catch TAC.

For skates and rays, ICES has raised the alarm about the depleted status of certain species in Northeast Atlantic waters. While some stocks are being maintained with perhaps slight increases or decreases, others are on the brisk of local or total extinction. Oceana urges Fisheries Ministers to agree decreases in TACs for skates and rays, in line with previous ICES advice, especially for the Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters. Additionally, for angelsharks, common skates, undulate rays and white skates, Oceana advocates full protection, including a prohibition on landings.

The IUCN[3] notes that one-third of European sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. It is now up to the Fisheries Ministers to safeguard their future by sticking to the commitments made in the EU’s Plan of Action for Sharks.


Report: The Race for Threatened Sharks. The tragedy of non-managed species

[1] IUCN Red List status

[2] International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, the scientific body that advices the European Commission

[3] International Union for Conservation of Nature