Endangered species / North Atlantic

EU fleets fishing shark nursery grounds, new report reveals

Written by Oceanographic Staff

EU fishing fleets from Spain and Portugal are consistently fishing in baby shark nursery grounds in the North Atlantic, a Greenpeace report reveals today on Shark Awareness Day.

A Greenpeace report, released today for Shark Awareness Day, reveals that EU fishing fleets from Spain and Portugal are consistently fishing in shark nursery grounds in the North Atlantic using longlines. The report, Hooked on Sharks, also reveals that on an average fishing day in the North Atlantic, over 1,200kms of fishing line, with an estimated 15,000-28,000 hooks, is in the water. 

The report also reveals that the Spanish and Portuguese governments have consistently resisted attempts to improve the management of this fishery. 

“While the EU and its members claim to be champions of ocean protection, their fishing fleets are deliberately fishing in baby shark breeding grounds in the North Atlantic using longlines, a hugely destructive fishing technique. Fishing nations like Spain and Portugal are actively working to undermine marine protection measures for the area. It’s shocking hypocrisy, which is causing environmental harm on a vast scale,” commented Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK.

Most shark species have few offspring and take several years to reach sexual maturity. Therefore, catching shark pups before they are old enough to reproduce has a devastating impact on species numbers, as well as the wider marine ecosystem. Global shark populations have plummeted by 70% in the last 50 years.

The global demand for shark products is continuing to grow, with the global industry now worth over $1bn annually. Shark can be found in products ranging from pet food to make up, with Europe a major player in the global shark trade.

The North Atlantic’s longline fishery nominally targets swordfish, but has transitioned to rely on shark bycatch to remain profitable. Regulations have failed to keep pace putting sharks, a keystone species, at severe risk. 

Deliberately ignoring recommendations by scientists and civil society has led to North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks becoming endangered. 

Will McCallum said: “What’s happening in the North Atlantic is the perfect example of why, when it comes to ocean governance, the status quo is broken. We need a strong Global Ocean Treaty to be finalised this year, to fix this dysfunctional system and put ocean protection at the heart of global ocean governance. The final Treaty negotiations in August will be the EU’s chance to step up and prove it really does want to protect the oceans, by backing a Treaty that can create ocean sanctuaries on the high seas that will restore shark populations and help coastal communities.”

Governments from around the world will meet in August to finalise a new Global Ocean Treaty. A strong treaty would lay the foundations for ‘30×30’ – 30% of our planet’s ocean protected by 2030. Unless a treaty is finalised this year, it will be nearly impossible to deliver 30×30.

Read the full report here.

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.
Photography courtesy of Brook Peterson (Ocean Image Bank) and Greenpeace.

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