Oceana warns the European Commission and member states that lack of action to conserve the depleted porbeagle shark could lead to its collapse

Oceana is extremely disappointed by the EU Fisheries Ministers’ decision not to set catch limits for porbeagle in 2007 and calls on the EU to urgently adopt a recovery plan.

Press Release Date: August 20, 2013

Location: Madrid


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

The international marine research and conservation organization, Oceana, is dissatisfied by the lack of any catch limit or management plan for the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) in Council Regulation (EC) Nº 41/2006, which fixes the 2007 fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks. Despite scientific advice to end directed fisheries for porbeagle, no EU catch limitations for this species were set at all.

Oceana calls on the European Commission to urgently develop a recovery plan for the porbeagle and on Member States to adopt this in the first quarter of 2007, before the directed porbeagle fishing season begins in March. If this cannot occur, then the directed porbeagle fishery should be immediately closed until an effective plan is in place.

The porbeagle is a large oceanic migratory shark, related to the great white. The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has advised against any targeted fishing for this species, due to its severely decimated populations.  According to ICES statistics, European landings decreased by 87% between 2000 and 2005, and Northeast Atlantic populations are considered Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Finally, just last month, the EU agreed on a proposal to list porbeagle in CITES Appendix II, which would require future porbeagle fisheries to be accompanied by programmes to determine sustainable harvesting levels.

There was some hope for this species when, in December 2006, the European Commission proposed a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the porbeagle stock. Although even this limit was above scientic recommendations, it would have regulated fishing for this decimated species. However in further negotiations, it appears that at the last minute the EU Fisheries Ministers rejected the Commission’s proposal for a TAC.. Even the post Fisheries Council Press Release still stated that a TAC of 174t had been agreed, which was later removed from the definitive EC regulation Nº 41/2006, published in mid January. Oceana suspects high pressure to remove the TAC allocated for porbeagle from those countries whose interest is above all to protect their traditional fisheries.

In December 2005, the Council and the Commission had already recognized the critical state of the porbeagle stock, and the Council invited the Commission to propose regulation of both the directed and by-catch fisheries of this stock during the first semester of 2006. Again, in December 2006, the Council and the Commission took note of the urgent need to regulate the porbeagle fishery, including placing limits on by-catch. And once again, the Council invited the Commission to make proposals during 2007 to establish an effective management regime for this stock, which would then be applied in 2008.

“It is totally inexcusable that there is to be another year with absolutely no management of the porbeagle shark fishery,” said Julie Cator, Director of Policy for Oceana in Europe. “The EU Fisheries Ministers and Commission have now twice made declarations that the stock is critical and something should be done. But still nothing has happened and the porbeagle stock continues to spiral downwards. Words on paper will not save the porbeagle”.

“Scientists have advised the fishery to be closed. Will it take the collapse of the stock for there to be action? This is irresponsible behaviour and contrary to the binding agreement made by EU Member States in the CFP to adopt a precautionary approach to fisheries management,” continued Cator.

The porbeable shark is caught in extremely high numbers in European fisheries, both in directed fisheries and as by-catch in tuna and swordfish longline fisheries. The meat of this shark is highly valued for consumption within Europe, and its fins are often exported to satisfy the Asian market. France in particular is one of the European fleets responsible for the majority of porbeagle catches; indeed France is the only country in the EU with a targeted porbeagle fishery and, along with Spain, has the largest market for this species. According to data from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), France is responsible for roughly half of all porbeagle catches each year in the North Atlantic since the year 2000.

To that effect, on Monday 29 January, the Shark Alliance will be holding a press conference and public event in Paris, France, to highlight the plight of this, and many other, European shark species, and asking the country to follow scientific advice and implement solutions for their conservation.  The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 20 non-governmental organizations, of which Oceana is a key member. The coalition is dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fisheries policy.