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UK government to lead fight against unsustainable fishing of sharks



The government minister in charge of fisheries has said he will work to put precautionary catch limits in place for sharks to stop overfishing from EU boats. This follows worries that unsustainable fishing methods could lead to some species becoming extinct.

Speaking at the London Aquarium on Tuesday, George Eustice outlined the government’s views on the overfishing of sharks in the Atlantic, as part of the No Limits campaign.

Co-ordinated by the Shark Trust, a UK charity that aims to protect sharks around the world, it is designed to highlight the dangerous nature of unrestricted catches of sharks.

Ali Hood, director of conservation at the Shark Trust, said, “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.”

There is currently no legislation in the EU to limit shark fishing and with the situation escalating, Eustice said he wants the UK to lead the way in the campaign to protect these creatures.

Sharks play a vital role in the marine ecosystem and extinction would mean many problems for our oceans.

Recent research found blue and mako sharks are particularly in danger with 3-4m caught by longlines when crossing the Atlantic.

At the event, Eustice said, “We strongly support scientifically justified catch limits on a number of commercially exploited sharks but we are inevitably going to encounter political resistance from some other countries along the way.”

Approximately 100m sharks are killed around the world each year. They are often caught as a result of ‘bycatch’ where boats pick them up unintentionally when after valuable fish such as cod and tuna. This means many are often thrown back dead into the sea if they are not fished for their meat and fins.

However, more species are now caught deliberately with lots of EU countries, including the UK, fishing unsustainably without limits.

Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, who joined Eustice in speaking at the event, said, “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.”

Photo: Allan Lee via Flickr

Further reading:

Sharks at risk from fishing net ‘wall of death’ on British migratory routes

Revenue from ‘shark eco-tourism’ could double in next 20 years

European seas and oceans ‘not in good shape’, EU warns

Most marine protected areas not effective, new research says

Tesco criticised by Greenpeace over ‘unsustainable’ tuna