Last week, governments gathered in La Jolla, California for the annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) responsible for managing tuna fisheries across an area totaling approximately 68 million square kilometers (26 million square miles).
Project AWARE Foundation together with Shark Advocates International, Humane Society International, European Elasmobranch Association and the Shark Trust, expressed their views, concerns and positions with regard to potential conservation actions for sharks and rays in a joint letter addressed to Dr. Guillermo A. Compeán, the IATTC Executive Director.
Project AWARE Foundation and the 4 other like-minded groups and organisations urged the IATTC to agree to:
- prohibit retention, transhipment, and sale of oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks
- close the area north of 8˚N to floating object based fisheries
- prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea
- enhance compliance with IATTC shark commitments, and
- expand research into the bycatch and status of Eastern Pacific "sharks", including rays.
"We strongly support proposals from the European Union (EU) and Japan for the protection of oceanic whitetip sharks as a top priority for the IATTC" says Sonya Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. "We also appreciate and support the EU proposal to protect hammerheads. We are deeply concerned, however, that the pressing problems of over-exploitation of silky sharks and poor compliance with existing IATTC rules (on finning and live release) have yet to be addressed by additional proposals, and we urge such action" she adds on behalf of all the organizations supporting the letter sent to the IATTC director.
The IUCN has classified oceanic whitetip sharks as Globally Vulnerable and has highlighted key species of hammerhead sharks as the most threatened semi-pelagic / pelagic sharks in the world.
We are urging the IATTC to take the lead within the world's tuna Regional Fishery Management Organizations by being the first to formally adopt, with no exception, "fins naturally attached" policies as the best practice for preventing shark finning.