This week, member countries of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) can take critical shark conservation steps at the 20th special ICCAT meeting in Portugal, November 14-21.
ICCAT is an inter-governmental Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) responsible for the conservation of Atlantic tunas and tuna-like species. Sharks are among the most vulnerable animals taken in high seas ICCAT-managed fisheries. ICCAT has led to the world’s RFMOs in the adoption of shark conservation measures, but has yet to agree basic, science-based limits for key shark species, or to align its finning ban with best practice.
- Strengthen the finning ban by banning at-sea removal of fins, and
- Set precautionary, science-based catch limits for blue sharks.
An ICCAT ban on at-sea shark fin removal (which would require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached) would greatly ease finning ban enforcement and shark catch data collection, and could set an important precedent for the Pacific and Indian Ocean tuna RFMOs.
Blue sharks are the world's most heavily fished pelagic sharks and the most common species in the global shark fin trade. Landings from the Atlantic, taken mostly by countries that don't yet limit catch, increased three-fold over the last decade. Immediate blue shark landings caps by ICCAT are supported by scientific advice and the precautionary approach.
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In our work to end overfishing and finning of sharks, we advocate for national, regional, and global conservation actions that limit catch based on science and the precautionary approach, end at-sea removal of fins, and fully protect species listed by the IUCN as Endangered or Critically Endangered.