07 October 2005

Shark finning banned in north-west Atlantic

The growing trade in shark fins — often used to make an expensive Asian soup - has become a serious threat to many shark species. © WWF-Canon / Jürgen FreundWWF, together with Defenders of Wildlife and the Ocean Conservancy, have welcomed a decision adopted by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) to ban shark finning.

The new measures will apply to international groundfish and shrimp trawl fisheries in the north-west Atlantic Ocean, offering additional protection to several shark species, including the basking and dogfish sharks.

Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly and produce few young. The World Conservation (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group (SSG) estimates that finning — the practice of slicing off a shark's fin and discarding the carcass — causes the death of tens of millions of sharks worldwide each year to meet a growing international demand for shark fins and other shark products.

"NAFO has taken a big step, but sharks still remain in peril throughout the world," said Charlotte Mogensen, WWF's European Fisheries Policy Officer. "We urge all fishery management organizations to adopt not only finning bans, but requirements for shark data collection, bycatch reduction, and sustainable catches. The success of the shark measures will hinge on effective enforcement, follow-up management, and consistent measures in adjacent seas."

The NAFO measures call for research aimed at improving the selectivity of fishing gear selectivity and identifying areas used as shark nurseries. Last year, NAFO became the first fishery management organization to adopt an international catch limit for skates, a closely related shark species. There are still no international limits on shark catch.

Also announced at the NAFO meeting was a commitment to reforms that will further protect fish stocks on Canada's Grand Banks, a crucial first step in saving endangered fish species.

The commitments include strengthening NAFO's decision-making process, as well as looking at ways at implementing an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, dispute resolution, and changing the objection procedure. There are also calls to strengthen enforcement mechanisms through improved vessel monitoring, inspections both at-sea and in-port, and sanctions for rule breakers.

"This is the first time we have seen a commitment by NAFO nations to make reforms that could help to restore and recover the Grand Bank ecosystem," said Dr Robert Rangeley, Atlantic Marine Program Director, WWF-Canada.

"Many of the measures committed were identified as necessary in our report released earlier this week and, if implemented, could go a long way to solving bycatch and other threats."

The WWF-Canada report — Bycatch on the High Seas: A Review of the Effectiveness of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization — documents the devastating impact that indiscriminate fishing and bad international fisheries management are having on many species, including cod.

While many positive steps appear to have come out of the meetings, there was little movement on protecting sensitive areas, according to WWF. A commitment to develop guidelines for gathering data on seamounts, for example, clearly does not go far enough. These and other sensitive areas must immediately be identified and protected in order to rebuild decimated stocks.

"These decisions are an important step forward in protecting fish stocks on the Grand Banks, but this new found commitment to reform must result in real change in how NAFO conducts itself," said Josh Laughren, Director of WWF-Canada's Marine Conservation Programme.

"We must see significant reforms agreed to and implemented at the next NAFO meeting a year from now if there is to be any hope of bringing back the Grand Banks ecosystem. We cannot afford a five-year discussion on protection."

Source: www.panda.org


At 8:21 AM, Anonymous Gerry Gibberer said...

It can't hurt to boycott restaurants which sell sharkfin soup. In Australia, while sharkfinning itself is illegal (finning the live shark and dumping it overboard), it is allowed to sell the fins of (non-protected) sharks taken as bycatch. But who can be sure the restaurant has done the right thing.

If you do boycott a sharkfin restaurant, make sure you tell them you're doing so -- and why you're going somewhere else. No point having a boycott if the, um, "boycottee" doesn't know about it!


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