The Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network

            A charity registered in Scotland - RegNo:: SC039015


SOS Newsletter - May 2008

Things have moved a long way in the past 12 months regarding shark protection and there is a real chance of sensible shark management providing The EU commission follow the scientific advice for the EU shark management plan (CPOA) due out around the end of the year.

When SOS was founded just three years ago, we highlighted four species of shark that required urgent protection. Three out the four now have a limited protection but it is hoped the European Shark plan of action (CPOA) will increase that protection on these and all other European sharks later this year.

1, The tope is now protected in English waters (See below) but unfortunately the Scottish Government is refusing to fall in line, which undermines the great work being carried out by Defra
2, The Spurdog now carries a 5% bycatch limit, which has stopped the longliners from targeting the residential populations in some of the Scottish Lochs. Commercial organisations are questioning this ruling but Defra seem to be holding firm.
3, The Porbeagle now has a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) applied to them; although set to high, it is easier to have a TAC reduced than to have one applied so hopefully common sense will prevail at this December’s fishery talks.
The fourth species highlighted was the common skate which unfortunately failed to get protection under the recent Wildlife & Countryside Act.

What else is new?

Tope are now protected in English waters

Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Marine, Landscape and Rural Affairs & Minister for the South East, has taken steps to protect tope, a vulnerable European continental-shelf and coastal shark species.

The Minister has prohibited fishing for tope other than by rod and line and has set a 45kg per day tope by-catch limit in commercial fisheries targeting other species.

The Minister has decided that to ensure the sustainable use of tope, fishing for tope by methods other than rod and line will be prohibited and where tope is a by-catch in commercial fisheries targeting other species a 45kg per day tope by-catch limit will apply. Rod and line anglers fishing from boats will not be allowed to land their catches (dead or alive) ashore, however, they will be allowed to continue to practice ‘catch and release’. Both commercial and recreational fishermen will share the responsibility for the conservation of tope.

Mr Shaw has also promised to lobby the EU commission for protection in all EU waters. This is necessary as the French and Spanish are targeting the tope shoals
European Plan of Action for sharks.

SOS was pleased to contribute to the first round of consultation on the long-awaited Community Plan of Action for sharks (CPOA). It is hoped that the CPOA will provide the framework for improved shark management in Europe and in fisheries frequented by EU vessels.

An intense period of lobbying will follow through the spring and summer of 2008 so as to ensure the content of the CPOA is not compromised and its effectiveness reduced. It is hoped that the UK will champion the CPOA in Europe. The SOS response can be found at
SOS Sea Anglers in Brussels

Three SOS members have just returned from Brussels where they attended the third Shark Alliance members meeting.

The Shark Alliance is a not-for-profit coalition of over 50 non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fishing policy. Because of the influence of Europe in global fisheries and the importance of sharks in ocean ecosystems, these efforts have the potential to enhance the health of the marine environment in Europe and around the world.

The mission of the Shark Alliance is two-fold:

• To close loopholes in European policy regarding the wasteful and unsustainable practice of shark finning;
• To secure responsible, science-based shark fishing limits for long-term sustainability and ecosystem health.

Ian Burrett, Denis Kelly and Nigel Proctor attended various workshops at the meeting and helped make plans for the 2008 European Shark Week. Last years European Shark week resulted in over 20,000 EU signatures demanding sensible shark management, being handed in to the commission.

Attending organisations were encouraged to make representations to their individual countries’ permanent secretaries to raise the profile of the CPOA; an action plan being developed by the EU commission, which hopefully will provide greater protection for Europe’s sharks species.

Nigel, Denis and Ian met up with the UK permanent secretary David Trip and gave a short presentation, congratulated Defra on their proactive approach to shark management and highlighted their disappointment that Scotland was undermining Defra’s fine work by refusing to unilaterally protect its native sharks. David was very attentive and promised to pass on our concerns.

Tope – a code of best practice

After the recent tope protection Defra were keen that a tope code of best practise was published giving the tope as quick and safe return as possible. The code was written by SOS and many other organisations were asked for comments.

The code can be found at

Because SOS, SACN and SFSA were duplicating work in Scotland a new organisation the Scottish Sea Angling conservation Network (see was formed for lobbying the Scottish Marine Directorate so much of the Scottish SOS work is now carried out under the SSACN banner.

SSACN has achieved charitable status and holds regular meetings with the MD.

We recently held a very successful event in the Holyrood (Scottish parliament buildings) and Sea angling was debated for the first time ever in a Scottish parliament. Details of the event can be found at

SSACN – spurdog tagging programme

Evidence from many anglers suggests that the Lochs Sunnart and Etive and surrounding waters have a unique resident population and that the spurdog pup in the region.

We believe Scotland could provide real leadership by setting aside this area to provide a springboard for the regeneration of the Species.

However, the Scottish Marine Directorate has stated they need scientific data before they are willing to take any action, such as declaring the area a Nursery area.

To provide this data SOS/SSACN are looking at tagging schemes on two levels

1. Our members are already tagging the fish with standard plastic darts and this information will be collated by UK shark tagging programme.
2. The Scottish Government’s marine scientists at the Fisheries Research Services (FRS) will administer an enhanced programme using satellite tags providing we can raise the necessary £25,000 to pay for tags and satellite time.
If you wish to get involved then please email

Angel Shark

The Angel Shark has at last been awarded protection in English waters under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. In December 2006 the Angel Shark was declared extinct in the North sea and is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN. From April this year it will become illegal to target, kill, or injure an Angel Shark within six nautical miles of the English coast.

Skate and rays

Thornback now have limited protection in the North Sea by use of a 200kg bycatch limit but the Scottish Government is again unwilling to protect the much depleted stocks on the west coast. SOS and SSACN have produced a report showing the demise of the west coast skate and rays and will lobbying the Scottish government for protection of them.

See the paper at

SOS and the Shark trust

We are increasingly grateful for the great work by Ali Howe and the team at the Shark Trust See

Ali is responsible for much of the proactive stance Defra have taken on the Sharks and her scientific background has proved invaluable to us. We are looking forward to working with Ali on the skate and ray issues in Scotland

What’s happening in the next few months?

SOS will continue to lobby UK, Scottish and EU governments for a precautionary approach to shark management in the CPOA.

We are also considering what action to take towards the Scottish Governments refusal to protect the west coast shark species and will be in touch shortly regarding this.

June the 8th - World Ocean’s Day 08 – SSACN/SOS have a stand at this event which will be held at Port William, Sunday 8th June 11am to 4pm. It should be a great day for the kids.

World Oceans’ Day was established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and is an international celebration of the seas aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the marine environment and threats to it.

11th - 19th of October European Shark Week: After last year’s success European Shark Week will be returning between the 11th and 19th of October 2008. If you are interested in getting involved or holding an event, please let us know.

One Response to “SOS Newsletter - May 2008”

  1. 1
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