The Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) decided recently to halt targeted fishing of vulnerable sharks in the Southern Ocean. France proposed the action to the CCAMLR based on its concern over increased shark finning and fishing for the slow-reproducing deepwater sharks in Antarctica. Shark fishing will be prohibited until shark populations can be assessed and the impact of fishing quantified. The CCAMLR is also encouraging fisheries to release sharks caught as bycatch.
“This responsible yet bold action by CCAMLR establishes the world’s first limit on the amount of sharks that can be taken from international waters and is therefore a landmark agreement in global shark conservation,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for The Ocean Conservancy’s shark program and the Shark Alliance. “We congratulate CCAMLR for affording sharks the precautionary protection they so urgently warrant yet rarely receive.”
Shark populations worldwide are decreasing. They are highly susceptible to overfishing because they are slow to reach sexual maturity and produce small litters. Deepwater shark species like those in antarctica are even more slow-growing and therefore more vulnerable. Deepwater sharks are fished for their rich liver oil used primarily by the pharmaceutical and supplement industries.
Currently, shark fishing in general is not limited for most species, with the exception of CITES restrictions on white sharks, basking sharks, and whale sharks. Substantial numbers of sharks are caught and killed as bycatch by the tuna and swordfish fisheries. To date, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has ignored scientific advice to reduce fishing on shortfin mako sharks.
Following the implementation of CCAMLR’s ban on shark fishing in Antarctica, Sonja Fordham went on to say “We call on other regional fishery management organizations, particularly ICCAT, to follow CCAMLR’s lead and limit shark fishing to scientifically derived, sustainable levels,” added Fordham. “Fishery managers must begin to err on the side of caution with respect to these exceptionally vulnerable marine species or we may well lose them completely.”