Sharks caught in tuna fishing threatened with extinction
By Anne Eckstein | Thursday 17 November 2011
Three-fourths of the species of highly migratory sharks taken as by-catches during tuna fishing are threatened with extinction, warns the marine environment association Oceana in a report released at the meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), taking place from 11 to 19 November in Istanbul, Turkey. Less than 1% of sharks caught in the Atlantic are covered by protection measures, according to the report.
“Atlantic fishing states can no longer ignore that shark populations are being decimated by ICCAT fisheries,” states the NGO, which calls on the 48 ICCAT states to “prohibit the catch of particularly vulnerable shark species, especially porbeagle and silky sharks” and to limit catches of blue shark and short-finned mako.
The ICCAT has introduced protection measures for only three species of shark to date: hammerhead shark, oceanic white-tip shark and thresher shark.
The American NGO Pew Environment Group recommends the use of new types of material that allow sharks to escape without undermining the yield of tuna vessels. This could include nylon purse lines, which can be easily severed by a shark but not by a tuna, to attach hooks to the long lines set out by fishing vessels.
Oceana also sounds the alarm over Mediterranean swordfish, catches of which are made up of 70% immature fish. It urges the ICCAT to combat the 50% decline in this species. More specifically, Oceana calls on the ICCAT to establish a comprehensive management plan for Mediterranean swordfish that would include: 1. catch limits set in line with scientific advice; 2. science-based measures to set a minimum landing size and define techniques for avoiding catches of immature fish; 3. development of a coherent fishing authorisation system and scientific evaluation of fleet capacity reduction plans; and 4. a penalty system to guarantee data reporting and end illegal drift net fishing. “Poor fisheries management is endemic in the Mediterranean, but the situation of swordfish is unacceptable. It is time that the ICCAT follows its own scientific advice and adopts appropriate measures to restore this species,” insists Oceana Europe.
Protection measures cover only less than 1% of sharks caught in the Atlantic