The date today is 09-02-09

Porbeagle Fact Sheet

Porbeagle sharks are:

  • Exceptionally slow-growing and vulnerable to overfishing
  • Heavily exploited for their valuable meat and fins
  • Considered Critically Endangered off Europe by the IUCN
  • Unprotected in EU and international waters (except by Sweden & Norway)
  • In urgent need of conservation measures.

Biology

Porbeagle sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and long lasting
depletion due to their slow growth, late maturity, and small litters. Females do not reproduce until their teen years and give birth to only about four pups after an 8-9 month pregnancy. Like most sharks, porbeagles are top predators in marine food webs and therefore critical to keeping the ocean in balance.

Fisheries today

Porbeagle meat is among the most prized of all shark meat, particularly in Europe.
Their large fins are valuable for use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Schools of
porbeagle sharks are therefore sporadically targeted, but also often kept if taken
incidentally, as bycatch, usually by pelagic longliners. Scientists note that most
hooked porbeagle sharks make it to the boat alive; many could therefore survive
capture if released.

Currently, vessels from France and Spain take most of the EU catch of porbeagles,
through targeted fisheries and as bycatch. Boats from the UK and Ireland also land porbeagle sharks taken incidentally.

Population status

Intense, limitless fishing has left the Northeast Atlantic porbeagle shark stock the most depleted porbeagle population in the world. Norwegian landings from this region declined by 99% between 1936 and 2005. The IUCN-World Conservation Union includes porbeagle on their Red List of Threatened Species, as Vulnerable globally; the Northeast Atlantic population is considered Critically Endangered.

Scientific advice

Scientists with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) have
recommended ending targeted fisheries for porbeagle sharks in the Northeast Atlantic and establishing measures to prevent bycatch of the species.

Conservation measures

In 2006, the European Commission proposed establishing a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for porbeagle for European Community waters and vessels, but the measure
was rejected by the Council of Ministers.

Sweden has protected the porbeagle shark. Norway has banned targeted fishing for the species, but allows the retention and sale of porbeagles taken as bycatch.

Germany, on behalf of the European Union, has proposed to limit international trade in the porbeagle shark to sustainable levels through a listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). At the 2007 Conference of the Parties to CITES, the proposal received a majority of the Parties votes, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

The lack of porbeagle fishing restrictions imposed by the proponent Party (EU) was a powerful argument used to defeat the proposal.

Porbeagle sharks are highly migratory and yet there are no bilateral or international
fisheries management measures for the species.

Call to Action

Northeast Atlantic porbeagles, among the most imperiled sharks in the world, have
been subject to limitless, unsustainable catches for far too long. The EU has called on countries around the world to limit porbeagle trade, but has yet to impose the most basic restrictions on its own targeted take and bycatch of the species.

For years, scientists have advised that directed fishing on this Critically Endangered population should cease and that bycatch minimization measures should be imposed. It is high time to heed that advice.

The Shark Alliance urges EU Fisheries Ministers to improve the outlook for beleaguered porbeagle sharks by working to secure:

  • An EU TAC of zero for porbeagle sharks in 2008
  • Complementary measures to minimize bycatch and discard mortality
  • Development of a comprehensive EU porbeagle recovery plan
  • A ban on porbeagle retention under the International Commission for the
    Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries
    Commission (NEAFC), and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
    (NAFO), and
  • Prompt development of a science-based European Community Plan of Action for Sharks.

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