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Mixed Results for Sharks at Atlantic Tuna Commission Meeting

Ocean News

ICCAT protects silky sharks, leaves porbeagles vulnerable and finning ban weak

Fishing nations at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have acted on one of three shark conservation proposals.  ICCAT Parties adopted protections for silky sharks, based on a proposal from the EU, Brazil, and the US.  Proposals to protect porbeagle sharks and to strengthen the ICCAT ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) were defeated.

“We are pleased that ICCAT has taken steps to protect silky sharks, but much more must be done to effectively safeguard this and other exceptionally vulnerable shark species,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.

The silky shark is a coastal and oceanic tropical species taken in fisheries around the world. Scientists have warned that this species is highly vulnerable to ICCAT fisheries. The new measure bans retention, transshipment, and landing; it exempts developing countries, provided that catches are reported, do not increase, and do not enter international trade.  Countries that require landing of dead fish can also opt out.

For the second time, an EU proposal to protect porbeagle sharks failed due to opposition from Canada, the only Party with a targeted fishery for the species.

Belize, Brazil, and the US were unsuccessful in their third attempt to strengthen the ICCAT finning ban by replacing the current fin to carcass weight ratio limit with a prohibition on removing fins at sea.  China, Japan, and South Africa spoke in opposition to the measure.

Shark fins are used in a traditional, celebratory Chinese soup.  High demand for fins drives many shark fisheries and provides incentive for finning. Many shark species, particularly porbeagles and shortfin makos, are also sought for their meat.  ICCAT has called for reductions in mako fishing, but has yet to limit mako catches.  ICCAT adopted protections for bigeye thresher sharks in 2009 and protections for oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks in 2010.

“We urge ICCAT Parties to promptly implement the silky shark measure as well as previously agreed ICCAT safeguards for sharks, and to propose protections for mako sharks and other vulnerable species at next year’s ICCAT meeting,” added Fordham.

Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation established to advance sound policies for sharks and rays.

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