Shark trade limits endorsed by European Union

Germany wins EU blessing to propose spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks for listing under CITES

Press Release Date: August 20, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Brussels: The Shark Alliance is applauding today’s decision by European Union Member States to support Germany’s proposals to provide protection for spiny dogfish sharks (Squalus acanthias) and porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus) under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Following debate at the European Commission’s CITES Committee, the proposals received the qualified majority needed to advance to the Conference of the Parties to CITES in June 2007. 

“By adopting these landmark proposals, the European Union is poised to lead the world toward sustainable, international trade in commercially important sharks and these oft-disregarded species will at last get the global attention they need,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance.  “We thank Germany for their diligence and urge all EU Member States to promote the adoption of these sound proposals at next year’s CITES meeting.”

Spain, unfortunately, was still opposed to controlling these commercial species via CITES, and did not support the proposals, once again showing its unwillingness to contribute to and support shark conservation.It is clear that Spain is still not convinced of the need to protect these animals.  In a case as clear as this one, when there was a total consensus among the scientists, and one dealing with critically endangered populations, this country should have shown its full support hands down. We would like to see the Spanish government change its attitude on shark conservation, instead of neglecting the issue,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.

Spiny dogfish are sought primarily for their meat which is exported from all corners of the globe to satisfy European demand for fish and chips and smoked belly flaps.  Fisheries generally target pregnant females resulting in severe population damage. Porbeagle meat is particularly prized in Europe while fins are exported to Asia for use in shark fin soup.  Germany proposed the listings to ensure international trade in these vulnerable species is limited to sustainable levels. 

Serious depletion from overfishing has landed spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Northeast and Northwest Atlantic populations are considered Critically Endangered and Endangered, respectively.  Still, allowable catch levels continue to be set well above scientific advice. The EU Council sets their spiny dogfish and porbeagle catch limits later this week.

“International trade limits are essential, but won’t save spiny dogfish and porbeagle populations in EU waters,” added Fordham. “The EU must follow this responsible, international stance with science based decisions for sharks in EU waters.  We urge Member States to vote at the Fisheries and Agriculture Council meeting this week to end fishing for these depleted species, as recommended by scientists.”

Notes to Editors:

  • Member State delegates and the European Commission agreed unanimously today during the 39th Meeting of the EU CITES Management Committee to approve a draft proposal for the inclusion of spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias on Appendix II of CITES. [Prepared by the Federal Republic of Germany.]
  • A proposal to include Porbeagle sharks Lamna nasus on Appendix II was also agreed by the CITES Committee, following a qualified majority vote. The European Commission Services’ assessment of the Porbeagle shark proposal was unfavourable.
  • The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 20 non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fishing policy. See for details.
  • Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion because they generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young. 
  • Spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks migrate across national boundaries, but there are no international conservation measures for the species.  Most domestic management programs have failed to rebuild populations.
  • Parties to CITES, of which there are currently 169, meet every two to two and a half years.  The next Conference of the CITES Parties will be held in the Netherlands in June 2007.  Proposals need a two thirds majority to be adopted by CITES.
  • Three species of sharks – white, basking and whale – are already listed under CITES, but the volume of trade in these species is dwarfed by that in spiny dogfish.
  • CITES listing (on Appendix II as proposed) would result in requirements for exporting countries to limit trade to levels that do not pose a threat to wild populations, but would have no direct effect on EU fishing quotas. 
  • EU catch limits on porbeagle and spiny dogfish are being debated as of today by the EU Fisheries and Agriculture Council and a decision is expected latest by Thursday this week.  Limits proposed by the Commission are out of line with the scientific advice to close fisheries.