LONDON// Shark Trust Patron and wildlife presenter Steve Backshall and UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice will be presenting their views on uncontrolled shark fisheries today at a series of Shark Trust No Limits? campaign events – part of SEA LIFE London Aquarium’s annual Ocean of Stars.
Shark fishing is big business in Europe, with the European fleet’s effort focused on the Atlantic Ocean, where eight EU Member States, including Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, are responsible for 99% of EU shark landings.
As an ambassador for the Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign, Steve will be taking the plunge with the sharks at SEA LIFE London Aquarium, demonstrating that their fearsome reputation is often misplaced and that focus should in fact be on the escalating scale of unmanaged shark fishing.
“Despite the drama of the Great Whites, my favourite shark encounter by far was with Blue Sharks, a species common to British waters,” said Steve Backshall. “They are a glorious, slender, languidly moving beast, and yet, this may be an experience the next generation will not be able to share. I was horrified to learn that between 2000 and 2012 over half a million tonnes of Blue Shark were reported landed from the Atlantic by the EU fleet – this equates to approximately 13 million individual sharks. All caught with no limits.”
The Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign drives at the heart of this issue – too many sharks are being caught without any restrictions, with reported landings continuing to increase: for example Atlantic smoothhound and Blue Shark landings by the EU fleet have each more than tripled between 2000 and 2010. There is a deep concern that without appropriate catch limits, or relevant management, we could see other shark species go the way of previous commercial targets including Porbeagle, Spiny Dogfish, Angelshark and Common Skate – species now listed as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic by the IUCN.
Over recent years the UK government has actively championed science-based conservation and management of sharks. “It’s important to ensure we have the right conservation measures in place for vulnerable marine species and that all catches of sharks are sustainable,” stated UK Fisheries Minister, George Eustice. “I want to see appropriate catch limits established based on scientific evidence.”
Having previously petitioned Defra to maintain its proactive position within Europe, the Shark Trust welcomes the Minister’s announcement, and hopes other Member States will adopt the UK’s stance.
“Sharks will be caught in commercial fisheries, to a degree this is inevitable, but we can work to manage what is caught in a sustainable manner – sustainable for both shark populations and the associated coastal communities,” commented Ali Hood, Director of Conservation at the Shark Trust. “The No Limits? campaign presents a simple request to EU Member States: stand by the pledges you adopted five years ago within the EU Community Plan of Action for Sharks, and stop uncontrolled shark fishing now!”