ICCAT leaves sharks at risk

The only body capable of setting Atlantic-wide catch limits for sharks today ended its week-long annual meeting without adopting meaningful protections for even the most threatened of Atlantic shark species.

Despite unprecedented scientific warnings about the vulnerability of sharks to overfishing, Parties to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) killed, delayed or watered down multiple proposals for shark conservation action.

According to Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director. “ICCAT has failed to heed scientific advice to protect some of the most vulnerable species in the ocean and will allow unlimited shark catches for yet another year.”

ICCAT Parties received new scientific advice on eleven species of oceanic shark. The analyses show that most of these species grow very slowly and, as such, can be overfished even at very low levels of fishing. Scientists found that mako sharks are likely overfished and asked ICCAT to consider prohibiting the retention of the most vulnerable shark species, in particular, the exceptionally slow growing bigeye thresher.

Proposals from the European Community (EC) and Brazil to prohibit the take of threshers received support from the United States, Uruguay and South Africa, but were harpooned by Japan and China. EC proposals to protect hammerhead sharks and limit catch of blue and shortfin mako sharks were withdrawn because of opposition.

In the end, ICCAT took the smallest possible step by mandating the release of bigeye threshers only if the animals are still alive, a measure of little consequence given the lack of at-sea monitoring.

Category: EU Government News

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