PRESS RELEASE: No Limits to shark exploitation?

PLYMOUTH// The Shark Trust is launching its No Limits? campaign today in response to the crisis posed by unlimited and escalating shark fishing pressure. With no catch limits set for many shark species, landings have soared over the past decade, placing huge pressure on shark populations. The Trust’s No Limits? campaign highlights the urgent need to introduce science-based catch limits for Blue Sharks, Shortfin Mako, Tope, smoothhounds and catsharks – species accounting for over 97% of reported Atlantic shark landings.

Europe is a significant global shark fishing power with three EU Member States among the world’s top twenty shark fishing nations. The Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign addresses the alarming impact of these unrestricted landings, which amount to hundreds of thousands of tonnes, representing over 6.5 million sharks from the Atlantic in 2012 alone. No Limits? appeals to the public to support the adoption of science-based catch limits by signing an online campaign petition urging governments to act before it’s too late, and today’s commercial shark species follow other previously abundant Atlantic shark stocks into collapse.

The EU fleet is responsible for around 40% of reported global shark landings, and 88% of that catch comes from Atlantic waters,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “Reported landings of Blue Shark by the EU fleet have almost tripled since 2003, to approximately 100,000 tonnes in 2012, actual mortality will be far higher. With no catch limits in place, it is imperative that the countries responsible for these landings, and their management, stop uncontrolled shark fishing now.”

Overfishing has so severely reduced Porbeagle, Spiny Dogfish (Spurdog), Angelshark and Common Skate populations that they are now listed by the IUCN (1) as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.

Experts agree that sharks and their relatives face a far higher risk of extinction than most other vertebrates. We now believe that a quarter of all sharks, skates and rays are threatened”, said Sarah Fowler, Shark Trust Trustee. “It’s hard to believe that European fishermen almost everywhere can catch as many of these shark species as they want, irrespective of fish size and age. Limiting shark catches contributes to the sustainable future of coastal communities, as well as sharks.

The EU has, in recent years, begun to address a legacy of over-exploitation, with the UK strongly championing the Community Plan of Action for Sharks (2009) and the adoption last year of the revised EU Shark Finning Regulation. The Shark Trust now calls on the UK government to take a stand within the EU for the adoption of science-based catch limits for all unmanaged species.
Ali Hood concluded, “No Limits? is a campaign not only for the UK but for all the citizens of Europe; the Shark Trust believes that, when the public realise the sheer scale of shark mortality, they will want to add their voice – No Limits? No Future!

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Editors’ Notes:

The Shark Trust, established in 1997, is the UK registered charity that works to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. Our vision is a world where sharks thrive within a globally healthy marine ecosystem. The Trust is an effective and well respected advocate for sustainable shark management and the protection of threatened species, working through cross-sectoral collaboration with governments, industry and other stakeholder groups. www.sharktrust.org

The No Limits? campaign  calls on national governments, the European Commission and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (high seas regulators) to recognise that management is urgently required for all commercially exploited shark species and to introduce and enforce science-based catch limits without delay.

No Limits? statistics:

  • Spain, France and Portugal are listed in the top 20 global shark fishing nations (at last ranking UK 21st).
  • Eight European countries are responsible for 99% of EU shark landings. (Spain, France, Portugal, UK, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Greece). UK accounts for 8% of total EU reported shark landings.
  • From 2000-2012, over 1,000,000 tonnes of sharks were reported landed by the EU fleet worldwide. 88% of these were caught from the Atlantic, equating to the weight of 82,000 double decker buses.
  • In 2012 92% of the 91,000 tonnes of Blue Sharks reported landed from the Atlantic were caught by the European fleet.
  • No Limits? species: Blue Shark, Shortfin Mako, smoothhounds, Tope and catsharks. While not the only unmanaged sharks or rays, these species are caught in rapidly expanding fisheries and/or valued by emerging markets.  Together, the No Limits? species comprise over 97% of the sharks landed from the Atlantic and Mediterranean. www.sharktrust.org/id

‘Reported landings’ versus fish caught: Not all fish caught by commercial fishing vessels are brought back to harbour for sale (the ‘landings’); many are ‘discarded’, mostly dead, back into the sea.  The accuracy of catch and discard reporting varies widely, but experts estimate that 3 to 4 times more fish are caught and die in fishing operations than are reported as landed.

The Drivers: Historically, only a few high value sharks (e.g. Mako, Porbeagle and Spiny Dogfish) were targeted for their meat, fins and liver oil. Most species identified in the No Limits? campaign were an unwanted, discarded, part of the ‘bycatch’ of fisheries for more valuable bony fishes (such as cod and tuna). In recent decades, however, there has been a marked increase in both the targeting and retention of bycaught sharks, leading to alarming declines in populations of many species and closure of some fisheries following their collapse.

(1) IUCN Red List Assessments can be viewed at www.iucnredlist.org and the IUCN’s global shark Red List assessment results at http://elifesciences.org/content/elife/3/e00590.full.pdf.

Support No Limits? visit www.nolimitsnofuture.org to learn more about the campaign and sign the petition