IATTC approves proposals on whale shark and silky shark conservation
The 94th annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) concluded with two shark-related resolutions accepted, adopting conservation measures for whale sharks and silky sharks.
The 94th annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) concluded on 26 July in Bilbao, Spain. Over 20 different resolution proposals were considered, including two regarding shark conservation – one proposed by Venezuela on whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and another one on silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) jointly proposed by Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama. Both of these proposals were approved during the meeting, with WWF and other NGOs playing a major role in actively supporting them.
As per the newly approved whale shark conservation proposal, purse-seine fishing vessels shall be prohibited from setting their nets on a school of tuna associated with a whale shark when the animal has been sighted. If an individual is caught accidentally, all efforts shall be made to ensure its safe release. Each such incident should also be reported to the relevant authorities. This resolution on the conservation of whale sharks replaces a section of another resolution – on fish aggregating devices (FADs), which included the whale shark conservation measures previously. As per Venezuela’s proposal, this has now been transformed into a standalone resolution dedicated to the conservation of this endangered species.
The silky shark conservation resolution adopted by the Commission during the July meeting is actually a two-year extension of a past resolution adopted originally in 2016 for 3 years. Special emphasis was then placed on controlling bycatch mortality of silky sharks, understanding that such a measure was crucial for the protection of the species in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Assessments of silky shark stocks were initiated but as these are still ongoing due to limited data, the 2016 resolution was extended until 2021. While the studies continue, a number of specific measures set for purse-seine and longline fishing vessels will remain in place. This includes the prohibition of intentional catching and retaining of silky sharks in the waters of eastern Pacific Ocean, release of live animals whenever possible, and in case of unintentional bycatch mortality – prohibition of the subsequent trade.