Blue Shark © Charles Hood
The Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign highlights the urgent need to introduce science-based catch limits for unmanaged shark species. Blue Sharks and Shortfin Makos are caught in vast numbers on the high seas, while species such as Tope, smoothhounds and catsharks are caught in coastal fisheries. Together, these species account for over 90% of reported shark landings in the Atlantic, yet no international management measures are in place.
Historically, only a few high value sharks were targeted by fishing vessels for their meat, fins and liver oil. Most species included in the No Limits? campaign were an unwanted, discarded part of the bycatch in fisheries for more valuable bony fishes (such as cod and tuna). However, due to increased retention for meat, diversification of fisheries, and a decline of target species (e.g. swordfish), landings have soared over the past decade. With no catch limits set for many species of shark, huge pressure is now placed on these populations.
No Limits? focuses on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Makos. These are highly migratory species mainly caught on the high seas, and therefore are in need of international management. Coastal species such as Tope, catsharks (Smallspotted Catshark and Nursehound) and smoothhounds (Starry Smoothhound and Common Smoothhound) are also caught in increasing numbers and currently lack regional management. We want to see measures brought in for these often overlooked species which are caught in mixed fisheries. While Tope have limited management in the UK, this needs to be extended across their range.
Smoothhound © Peter Verhoog
High Seas Sharks
Blue Shark and Shortfin Mako © Andy Murch
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EU bans shark finning
The EU adopted a regulation banning shark finning (the removal of shark fins while at sea and the discarding of the carcass). However the regulation contained a loophole which provided an opportunity for shark finning to continue undetected and unpunished.
EU shark management plan
The EU finally adopted the Community Plan of Action-Sharks (CPOA-shark) – which contained an action to review and implement the European shark finning regulation.
Fins naturally attached
The requirement to land sharks with their fins naturally attached finally came into force, establishing best-practice for the EU fleet worldwide, and representing the culmination of well over ten years work for the Shark Trust and our colleagues.
Launch of No Limits? campaign
With the support of UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice and campaign Ambassador Steve Backshall, the Shark Trust launched No Limits?.
Proposals for No Limits? species
The EU presented proposals at ICCAT for high-seas management of Atlantic Blue Sharks and Shortfin Makos. These proposals did not gain the necessary traction and fisheries remain unlimited.
The Shark League for the Atlantic and Mediterranean was formed by the Shark Trust, Shark Advocates International, Project Aware and Ecology Action Centre. This coalition focuses its efforts on advocating for catch limits, better protections for endangered species and enforceable shark finning bans in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
An EU proposal lead to the adoption of a modest measure for Blue Sharks at ICCAT – this was a small yet unprecedented step toward establishing limits on Blue Shark catches from the North Atlantic.
Petitions delivered to EU Commission
In March, the Shark Trust delivered over 130,000 signatures supporting the call to end uncontrolled shark fishing to the EU Commission in Brussels.
With scientists focusing their attention on Shortfin Makos at ICCAT as it was a stock assessment year, campaign focus also shifted from Blue Sharks to Shortfin Mako.
Scientific advice recommended that to stop overfishing and give the best chance of recovery, a complete ban on retaining Shortfin Mako should be implemented. Management fell short, but there is now a Binding Recommendation requiring live release.
In the newest phase of the campaign, we’re asking the public to help symbolise reducing the current tonnage of Shortfin Mako. With mileage mimicking tonnage, we want the public to show their support and ‘take on a tonne’ by moving a mile for makos.
You helped secure a phenomenal 174,000 petition signatures during the last No Limits? phase, showing your support for ending uncontrolled shark fishing – this support did not go unnoticed!
Despite the adoption of a binding Recommendation at ICCAT 2017 requiring release of live makos in the North Atlantic, Shortfin Mako are still in deep trouble. In 2017 scientists reached clear conclusions: Shortfin Mako are overfished, and remain under pressure. Even if landings are cut to zero, Shortfin Makos have only a 54% chance of recovery by 2040: a prohibition on retention is the most effective immediate measure.
How can you help?
Help us show Atlantic shark fishing nations that we’re watching their actions!
The next annual ICCAT meeting is in November 2018. Ahead of this we’re asking you to show your support by joining #Move4Makos! You move a mile and we take a virtual tonne off the latest Shortfin Mako landings data! With 6000 tonnes reported from the Atlantic in 2016 – we‘re looking for enough supporters to symbolise bringing that total down to zero – mimicking the prohibition advised by the scientists.
Each person can only submit one mile, so we need at least 6000 of you to participate by moving in whatever way you prefer – this could include running, cycling, swimming, dog walking, climbing, beach cleaning, eggcase hunting or skateboarding – whatever gets you moving! At the same time we’ll be working with our Shark League colleagues, urging politicians and managers to stick with their commitments and ensure that the fishing pressure is reduced.
So who can move faster and hit zero first, the public or the politicians?
What to do next?
Download resources; fill out this form; and persuade friends and family to join you and #Move4Makos!
Fill in your details here
No Limits? appeals to the public to support the adoption of science-based catch limits for species currently without management. Action is needed before it’s too late and today’s commercial shark species follow other previously abundant Atlantic stocks into collapse. Don’t forget that although the campaign focusses on EU fishing vessels this is a global issue, which will affect shark populations worldwide.
MOVE4MAKOS — Take on a tonne for Shortfin Mako by completing a mile of activity. You could run, cycle, walk, skateboard, kayak, eggcase hunt, dog walk, climb…be as inventive as you like! Once you’ve completed your mile, upload it here. We hope to mimic taking 6000 tonnes down to 0 by November’s ICCAT meeting.
GET THE KIDS INVOLVED — It’s vital that the future generation have their say. Colour in and make your own shark chatterbox and write your own Shortfin Mako facts inside. Don’t forget to send us photos of your creations!
SPREAD THE WORD — Social media is a powerful tool, spreading information far and wide in just one click. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and share using #NoLimitsNoFuture #MakeTime4Makos and #Move4Makos
Steve Backshall signs the No Limits? petition.
What our supporters say…
“Over the last year alone, I’ve had the great privilege of many hours underwater with sharks of various shapes and sizes. Many have been smaller species, such as the catsharks, Tope and smoothhound you commonly see on British dives. However, I’ve also dived outside the cage with Great White Sharks, gone nose to nose with Tigers and Bulls, and followed Pilot Whales in order to freedive with the Oceanic Whitetips that trail them. I’ve shared the seas with makos – the fastest shark on earth, as well as Lemon Sharks, Silkies and various reef sharks. Every encounter has been a true wonder, and I have learned to not only respect, but deeply love these majestic, exciting creatures. I’ve also found out through experience quite how harmless to humans these ancient animals really are.
“The work that the Shark Trust does in raising awareness of the plight of these iconic species is really, really important, these are incredibly charismatic species yet they face a number of important threats: habitat loss, secondly climate change, thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – the damage caused by unregulated fishing practices.
Fishing nations gathered for the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have failed to adopt recommended limits to protect shortfin mako sharks from overfishing or strengthen the regional ban on shark finning.
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