The Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network

            A charity registered in Scotland - RegNo:: SC039015

13
Mar

Tope - rod and line only

After three years of campaigning by SOS and more lately SSACN, the groups have finally received the official news that they have been waiting for.

The letter below from the English fisheries minister Johnathon Shaw confirms that he has laid an Order before Parliament prohibiting the fishing for tope other than by rod and line and has set a 45kg per day tope by-catch limit

Tope like all sharks, have a slow growth rate, high age at first maturity, long gestation period and low number of offspring, which all contributes, to a low rate of population increase

The Tope are much sought after by recreational anglers as they are renowned for their fight and enjoyment they give and no wonder then that these recreational shark species are treated with care and respect when caught by anglers. And increasingly the fish are returned with tags so that more can be learned of their lives and their important place as apex predators in vulnerable ecosystems.

The new legislation has stopped tope becoming a targeted fish in English waters and hopefully the Scottish and Welsh will follow suite quickly. The pleasing thing is that Mr. Shaw stated in his letter that he and Defra need to take the fight to Europe to stop the targeted French and Spanish fisheries.

Dear Mr Burrett 13 March 2008

From Jonathan Shaw MP

Minister for Marine, Landscape & Rural Affairs and Minister for the South East

I am writing to let you know that today I have laid before Parliament an Order which I hope will ensure only the sustainable use of tope, a vulnerable European continental shelf and coastal shark species.

In 2006 officials consulted on a range of options in response to reports that a directed fishery for tope was being established and which scientists have advised would be unlikely to be sustainable. The majority of responses supported the implementation of measures to prevent the development of a targeted tope fishery. Responses also highlighted that tope were a low value but inevitable by-catch in commercial fisheries for other species.

Despite the absence currently of a targeted commercial fishery in English waters there remains a risk that a fishery for tope could be set up quickly and have a rapid adverse impact on the population both locally and throughout the North East Atlantic. Therefore, I have taken the decision to implement measures that will prevent the development of a commercial fishery for tope whilst recognising that some by-catch is inevitable by commercial fishermen.

The Order I have laid before Parliament only permits the targeting of tope by rod and line by UK vessels in English waters. Tope caught by rod and line may not be landed ashore, alive or dead. To prevent the discarding of by-caught tope by commercial fishermen targeting other species, when the tope is often already dead and therefore there is no benefit in returning these to the sea, officials have looked carefully at the tope landings data from 2004 to 2006 and have advised me that a by-catch limit of 45kg per day is appropriate for commercial fishing vessels.

We think that these measures will help both the recreational angling sector and the commercial fishing sector to contribute to the conservation of this important species and we hope that both sectors will ensure they follow good practice when handling live tope so that the tope can be released with the maximum chance of survival.

I realise that this Order is a unilateral measure and does not apply to other Member States’ vessels. However, I believe that the European Shark Plan of Action currently being drafted by the European Commission will provide an opportunity to coordinate management measures such as these and research undertaken by Member States in order to protect vulnerable shark species and I will be working hard with my officials to ensure that it does so.

SSACN would like to thank Ali Hood from the shark Trust who said This the result of a great deal of lobbying from the conservation and recreational angling community over the past 3 years.

With the 5% bycatch limit on Spurdog last December and now the protection on tope, things are really starting to move regarding elasmobranches protection and hopefully more will be achieved this year through the EU commission’s shark management plan.

See also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7288315.stm

I realise that this Order is a unilateral measure and does not apply to other Member States’ vessels. However, I believe that the European Shark Plan of Action currently being drafted by the European Commission will provide an opportunity to coordinate management measures such as these and research undertaken by Member States in order to protect vulnerable shark species and I will be working hard with my officials to ensure that it does so.

Thanks also to Ali at Shark Trust for all her hard work and to all others from the conservation and recreational angling communities who have helped in the lobbying over the past 3 years.

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