Actions taken to save sharks 'disappointing'

Jeremy Hance
November 15, 2009

Environmentalists say that the International Commissions for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) did not do enough in their yearly meeting to protect the ocean's sharks.

Member countries of ICCAT agreed on a ban big eye thresher sharks. However, Mexico was granted an exemption, allowing it to catch 110 big eye threshers, which is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

"ICCAT’s lack of action on sharks was […] disappointing," said Matt Rand, coordinator of the Shark Alliance and director of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "ICCAT took only one small step forward for sharks, but we regret that no other steps were taken to protect many other vulnerable shark species whose populations have declined significantly in recent years."

Big eye thresher after being caught by longline. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Rand added that "member countries represented at this meeting also missed a golden opportunity to mandate that all sharks caught in the Atlantic be landed with their fins attached."

It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are caught every year for the shark fin trade. Often when sharks are caught for this trade their fins are sliced off and their bodies thrown back into the ocean. Fins are worth up to 300 US dollars per pound driving a trade that is both lucrative and, according to many scientists, entirely unsustainable.

"We regret that there is no regional fisheries management organization focusing on sharks," said Rand. "Sharks need to be managed sustainably just like any other commercial fishery. Allowing sharks or any other species to collapse from destructive fishing practices is no way to manage the ocean’s resources."

A recent study by the IUCN found that 32 percent of open ocean sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, making this group of species even more threatened than amphibians, which scientists say are currently undergoing an extinction crisis.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 15, 2009).

Actions taken to save sharks 'disappointing'.