Conservationists Highlight Shortcomings at Convention on Migratory Species Shark Meetings

Monaco, December 13, 2018. Most countries are not living up to shark and ray protection commitments made under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), according to conservationists. A comprehensive review released today by Shark Advocates International (SAI), Sharks Ahead, documents national and regional actions for 29 shark and ray species listed under CMS from 1999 to 2014. At a shark-focused CMS meeting this week, the authors highlight their findings and make urgent calls for action to:

  • Prevent the collapse of mako shark populations
  • Bring sawfishes back from the brink of extinction
  • Limit fishing of endangered hammerheads
  • Consider ecotourism as an alternative to fishing manta rays, and
  • Bridge the divide between fisheries and environment authorities.

“We demonstrate that the listing of shark and ray species under CMS is outpacing implementation of vital commitments to protect these species – particularly from overfishing — that come with listing,” said report co-author, Julia Lawson, PhD student at the University of California Santa Barbara and an SAI fellow. ”Only 28% are meeting all of their CMS obligations to strictly protect species in their waters.”

Sharks and rays are inherently vulnerable and particularly threatened. Many species are fished across multiple jurisdictions, making international agreements key to population health. CMS is a global treaty aimed at conservation of wide-ranging animals. The 126 CMS Parties have committed to strictly protect Appendix I-listed species, and work internationally toward conservation of those listed on Appendix II.

“Inaction by member countries is squandering the potential of this international treaty to enhance shark and ray conservation globally, even as extinction looms for some species,” said Sonja Fordham, report co-author and president of Shark Advocates International. “Fishing is the main threat to sharks and rays and must be much more directly addressed to secure a brighter future for these vulnerable, valuable species.”

The following urgent problems persist for CMS-listed sharks and rays:

Atlantic makos are headed for collapse: The shortfin mako shark was listed under CMS Appendix II a decade ago. The North Atlantic population is now depleted and overfishing continues despite a 2017 measure by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to immediately halt it. Roughly half of the ICCAT Parties are also Parties to CMS and yet none of them has led or even publicly called for heeding scientists’ advice to ban retention of North Atlantic makos and/or cap South Atlantic catches. As CMS Parties and major mako fishing nations, the European Union and Brazil should lead efforts to establish concrete mako limits for the North and South Atlantic, respectively.

Sawfishes are at the brink of extinction: Sawfishes are the most endangered of all shark and ray species. Kenya proposed and secured CMS Appendix I listing for sawfishes in 2014, and yet has not fulfilled the associated obligation for strict national protection. Sawfish are at serious risk for extinction off East Africa. Assistance for establishing and implementing sawfish protections is urgently needed in Kenya as well as Mozambique and Madagascar.

Endangered hammerheads are still being fished. Scalloped and great hammerhead sharks are classified by IUCN as globally Endangered yet still fished in many regions including much of Latin America. Attempts by the United States and European Union to protect Appendix II-listed hammerheads through the regional fisheries body for the Eastern Tropical Pacific have to date been thwarted by Costa Rica, a CMS Party.

Manta ray ecotourism benefits are not fully appreciated. The Seychelles is positioning itself as a leader in the blue economy. Manta rays are among the species most popular with divers, and have great potential to support sustainable, non-extractive economic benefits. Seychelles, a CMS Party, has yet to protect this Appendix I-listed species. In fact, manta meat can still be found at Seychelles fish markets, more than seven years after listing.

Fisheries and environment authorities aren’t communicating well. Within fisheries management realms, there is little recognition of shark and ray conservation commitments made through environmental treaties like CMS. South Africa has established a formal process for discussing and aligning such commitments across relevant government agencies providing a good example of bridging this gap.

Sharks Ahead covers CMS Parties’ domestic conservation measures for the shark and ray species listed under CMS Appendix I prior to 2017: great white shark, all five sawfishes, both manta rays, all nine devil rays, and the basking shark. The authors also evaluated regional progress through fisheries bodies for the sharks and rays listed on Appendix II during this same time period: whale shark, porbeagle, northern hemisphere spiny dogfish, both makos, all three threshers, two hammerheads, and the silky shark.

The authors cite the lack of a compliance mechanism, confusion over CMS obligations, insufficient capacity within developing countries and the CMS Secretariat, and lack of focused critiques by conservation groups as key obstacles to fulfilling CMS commitments. Beyond strict protections for all Appendix I-listed sharks and rays, the authors recommend:

  • Concrete fishing limits for Appendix II-listed species
  • Improved data on shark and ray catches and trade
  • Greater engagement and investment in CMS shark and ray focused initiatives
  • Research, education, and enforcement programs to maximize effectiveness of measures, and
  • Financial, technical, and legal assistance to help developing countries meet their commitments.

Shark Advocates International is a non-profit project of The Ocean Foundation dedicated to securing science-based policies for sharks and rays.

The full report (Sharks Ahead: Realizing the Potential of the Convention on Migratory Species to Conserve Elasmobranchs) is available here:


Source: The Guardian
Author: Kate Hodal

The shortfin mako is at risk due to failure to halt overfishing, with EU ‘most to blame’

The world’s fastest shark may be swimming towards disaster after a major fisheries body failed to address continued overfishing of the highly vulnerable species, conservationists have warned.

The shortfin mako – which can reach speeds of up to 43mph – is fished worldwide but is not subject to any international fishing quotas. It is considered exceptionally vulnerable in the North Atlantic, where scientists have recommended all landings be reduced by at least two-thirds to prevent overfishing.

Member states of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which includes the European Union, agreed last year to narrow landing conditions and to report and review all mako catches in 2018. But a review of January to June landings shows catches were already 50% higher than the annual recommended threshold – proving that ICCAT is wildly off track in reducing the shark’s mortality and stopping its overfishing, according to Ali Hood, director of conservation at the UK-based Shark Trust.

“ICCAT has failed to make time to responsibly review and amend a measure for one of the most imperilled species within its purview, and it’s simply outrageous,” said Hood.

“Most of the blame falls squarely with the EU, which – despite being responsible for the vast majority of mako catches – offered no explanation or plan for improvement.”

ICCAT’s 52 party states oversee the conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding seas. The body has adopted bans on retaining other highly vulnerable shark species, including the bigeye thresher and oceanic whitetip shark, but has failed to adequately protect the mako, said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International.

Fordham added: “It is deeply discouraging to see ICCAT go to great lengths to improve the scientific understanding and monitoring of mako fisheries, only to have managers shirk their responsibility to prevent population depletion.”


Fishery Managers’ Failure Leaves Overfished Makos in Dire Need of EU & International Action

Dubrovnik, Croatia. November 19, 2018. Fishing nations gathered for the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have failed to address continued overfishing of mako sharks or strengthen the regional ban on shark finning. The fisheries body — after learning their 2017 measure had fallen far short of its goal of stopping North Atlantic mako overfishing — took no action to protect the population from collapse. Scientists have recommended a ban on North Atlantic mako retention to rebuild the population over two decades. ICCAT instead, in 2017, narrowed the conditions for landing makos, restrictions that so far appear to have had little effect. ICCAT spent less than 15 minutes out of the eight-day meeting this year reviewing the mako situation; only the U.S., Canada, and Japan took the floor.

“ICCAT has refused to responsibly review and amend a measure for one of the most imperiled species within its purview, and it’s simply outrageous,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “Most of the blame falls squarely with the EU, who – despite being responsible for the vast majority of mako catches — offered no excuse or plan for improvement. We call on all EU Member States to demand the European Commission immediately impose a mako retention ban on EU fleets, as recommended by scientists.”

The shortfin mako is one of the world’s most economically valuable sharks, sought for meat, fins, and sport. This oceanic species is fished by many nations around the globe yet is not subject to international fishing quotas. Scientists have repeatedly warned that makos’ slow growth make them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. Depletion is most apparent in the North Atlantic; scientists say catch needs to be cut by ~2/3 (from ~3000t to 1000t) to stop overfishing, and recommend banning retention to give the population a reasonable chance of rebuilding by 2040. Officials recently revealed that roughly 1500t of North Atlantic mako (500t over the annual overfishing threshold) was caught in the first six months of 2018.

The precarious state of mako sharks has led Mexico to propose adding the species to Appendix II of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which would prompt a permit system and allow export only if the sharks were found to be sourced from legal, sustainable fisheries. CITES will next consider listing proposals in May 2019.

“It is deeply discouraging to see ICCAT go to great lengths to improve the scientific understanding and monitoring of mako fisheries only to have managers shirk their responsibility to prevent population depletion,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “This inaction strengthens the case for listing makos under CITES. While trade controls should be complementary to fisheries management and are alone insufficient to protect sharks, CITES offers the best near-term opportunity to focus international attention on dangerously unsustainable mako fishing pressure.”

Twenty-six of the 45 Parties present co-sponsored a proposal to strengthen ICCAT’s ban on finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) by replacing a problematic fin-to-carcass ratio with a more enforceable requirement for sharks to be landed with fins attached. As they have repeatedly in the past, Japan, China, and Korea blocked the measure.

“We are dismayed that just a few countries have yet again stood in the way of an enforceable ICCAT shark finning ban proposed by Parties from all sides of the Atlantic,”
said Shannon Arnold, Marine Program Coordinator for Ecology Action Centre. “Ending at-sea fin removal is a cornerstone of responsible shark fisheries management, and also facilitates the collection of species-specific shark catch data that is sorely needed for assessing population status. We urge ICCAT countries to ensure that this best practice is fully implemented in their waters, regardless of ICCAT’s poor decision.”

Media contact: Patricia Roy email:, Tel: +34 696 905 907

Download Press Release



No se han establecido límites de captura por parte de los países que más marrajo pescan, entre los que se encuentra España, lamentan las ONG

La Shark League, coalición dedicada a la conservación de los tiburones, ha solicitado la prohibición de las retenciones de tiburón mako, marrajo común o de aleta corta (Isurus oxyrinchus) en el Atlántico Norte (basada en recomendaciones científicas) y en el Atlántico Sur (basada en el enfoque preventivo), al considerar que supone un primer paso hacia una conservación efectiva de la especie. Así lo ha manifestado la organización con motivo de la reunión anual de la Comisión Internacional para la Conservación del Atún Atlántico (ICCAT, por sus siglas en inglés), que se celebra desde el lunes y hasta el viernes en Marrakech.

Los tiburones se encuentran entre los animales más vulnerables capturados en el alta mar por la pesca de atunes y de peces espada. Ahora están ahora gravemente desprotegidos, apuntan desde la plataforma conservacionista. La más valiosa de las especies de tiburones es el mako, aseguran; pero no se beneficia de ningún límite internacional de captura, advierten. La última evaluación de las poblaciones del Atlántico Norte concluye, de hecho, su agotamiento, remarcan las mismas fuentes. En opinión de la Shark League, la «deficiente prohibición de la ICCAT sobre el aleteo no está en línea con las buenas prácticas»; la sobrepesca y el desperdicio de los tiburones tienen efectos ecológicos y económicos muy negativos, explican. El ICCAT, recuerdan, puede fijar normas para la conservación de los tiburones en 50 países y la Unión Europea (UE).

«Las recomendaciones científicas previas de limitar o reducir la mortalidad de los makos no han sido escuchados», se quejan desde la organización. E insisten en que «ningún límite de captura se ha establecido ni por parte del ICCAT ni por parte de los países que más pescan esta especie tan vulnerable a la sobrepesca», entre los que citan a España, Marruecos y Portugal.

Las capturas de tiburón mako, según científicos del ICCAT tras una evaluación reciente realizada en el Atlántico Norte, deben ser reducidas a cero para permitir la recuperación de los stocks en dos décadas. La medida de conservación más efectiva e inmediata, a tenor de sus resultados, sería la prohibición total de las retenciones, dado que la sobrepeaca de la especie ocurre sobre una población ya sobrepescada, comparten desde la Shark League.




It’s a “win” for sharks! And we aren’t talking about the sports teams, but the animals. Fishing nations have recently gathered at the annual meeting of the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM) in Rome and have agreed to adopt a proposal from the European Union (EU) to strengthen the regional ban on shark finning.

The official definition of shark finning is “removing the fins from a shark while still on the fishing vessel and dumping the rest of the shark overboard.” Not only is the practice of shark finning incredibly wasteful (less than 10% of the weight of a shark is used) but it is extremely cruel as they are still alive when thrown back into the ocean. Many species of sharks need to be constantly moving in order to breathe, scientifically referred to as “ram ventilation.” Without their fins, swimming is not possible. Instead, they meet their demise as they slowly sink down and either bleed to death, are eaten alive, and/or drown. Various films around the world have highlighted this horrific end many sharks meet, with late marine biologist Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater inspiring many to try and change this narrative.

However, many people believe that any shark that had its fins cut off is a victim of “shark finning.” Here are two examples of sharks in situations that do not fall under “shark finning”: 1) if a shark is brought to shore (on land) with the fins attached and then has the fins cut off or 2) if the shark is brought to shore (land) without fins attached.

A recent study showed that nearly all shark scientists and natural resource managers are opposed to the inhumane practice of finning. When the results of this study were published, many complained that these same people did not support previous “fin ban” legislation that was attempting to be implemented worldwide. This legislation made it illegal to buy, sell, or possess shark fins which sounds great if you quickly glance over the proposal and didn’t read the fine print. For those who did, they realized that all sharks find would be banned— even if they were caught based on science-based fishing quotas, there are no threatened species being caught, monitoring and reporting are enforced and accurate, there are bycatch mitigation strategies in place, etc. Those opposed to this “fin ban” instead proposed shark fishery management strategies that were comprehensive in that they addressed all issues and allowed for well-managed fisheries to buy and sell sustainable fins.

Yes, you can catch sharks sustainably! And this new policy shows just that, making it so that all sharks landed must be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached to their body. This move to completely ban the removal of shark fins at sea is the first of its kind, and the international fisheries management body hopes it will put an end legal loopholes that could lead to undetected finning. “We applaud Mediterranean fisheries managers for taking this important step toward preventing the wasteful and indefensible practice of shark finning,” said Ali Hood of the Shark Trust on their website. “We are particularly grateful to the EU for being a persistent champion of fins-attached requirements. This policy is essential not only for properly enforcing finning bans but also for gathering vital information on shark catch.”

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Source: Europress

Las ONG de conservación marina han celebrado la decisión este fin de semana de la Comisión General de Pesca del Mediterráneo de prohibir el desembarco de tiburones y otros pelágicos sin su aleta adherida al cuerpo, lo que contribuirá a “cerrar lagunas” en esta práctica en la región.

La Comisión General de Pesca del Mediterráneo (CGPM) ha adoptado una propuesta que partía de la Unión Europea con el fin de reforzar la prohibición regional del aleteo, que es la práctica de cercenar las aletas de los tiburones y arrojar sus cuerpos al mar. Ahora, la nueva política obligará a desembarcar todos los tiburones con las aletas adheridas naturalmente al cuerpo. Para las ONG, esta prohibición total del cercenamiento de las aletas de los tiburones es “la primera de su índole” adoptada por un organismo internacional de ordenación pesquera comprometido con la protección de múltiples especies de tiburones pelágicos, como por ejemplo los marrajos.* El portavoz de la organización Shark Trust, Ali Hood, ha agradecido “particularmente” a la UE por su “perseverancia” en la defensa del requisito de desembarque con las aletas adheridas al cuerpo. “Esta política es esencial no solo para poder velar por el cumplimiento de las prohibiciones de aleteo, sino también para recopilar información vital sobre las capturas de tiburones”, ha dicho.