WWF offers shark management recommendations for ICCAT’s annual meeting
As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meets in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for their 26th annual meeting on 18 – 25 November 2019, WWF presents its recommendations for better shark and ray management.
As 53 members of ICCAT convene in Europe for their annual meeting, sharks and possible measures to manage them will be one of the main discussion points. WWF is attending the meeting to offer shark management recommendations urgently needed to address the dire state of pelagic sharks in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
One of such species is shortfin mako shark, the fastest shark in the ocean, which was listed this summer by CITES under Appendix II in an attempt to control its international trade. This new listing will come into force at the end of November, right after ICCAT’s annual meeting concludes. Earlier this spring, IUCN “upgraded” the global conservation status of this iconic species to “Endangered” based on serious population declines around the world, including a 60% decline in the Atlantic over the past 75 years. ICCAT’s own most recent stock assessment for the species revealed that shortfin mako sharks will continue declining in the Atlantic until 2035, even under a 0-tons catch. This situation is emblematic of threats faced by other pelagic sharks in waters managed by ICCAT and other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) .
In light of this catastrophic situation of the shortfin mako, and with other sharks under similar pressures, WWF has laid out its key recommendations to ICCAT to urge the commission to implement the best available, science-based solutions to manage sharks more sustainably. WWF welcomes the earlier expansion of the ICCAT Convention, which now finally enlarges the scope to include enhanced shark and ray conservation. ICCAT now urgently needs to formally adopt the updated convention to ensure comprehensive management of existing shark fisheries in waters governed by the commission.
Atlantic population of the shortfin mako shark requires special attention and will likely be a hot topic during the meetings. WWF urges the commission to adopt a “zero-retention policy” (prohibiting vessels from catching and, if caught accidentally, from keeping sharks on board) to increase the chances of rebuilding the population of this vulnerable species. Additionally, it would be crucial for ICCAT to also introduce best handling and release guidelines to increase the chances of survival for these sharks once caught accidentally and then released back to the water.
In case of blue sharks – commercially most valuable species of shark, which is also the most commonly harvested one in the Atlantic and globally – WWF urges the Commission and its scientific committee to develop a comprehensive, long-term management plan for the species. This should include size limits to protect juveniles and large females, better bycatch mitigation measures, as well as spatial and temporal management measures based on scientific evidence, amongst other solutions.
Lastly, WWF strongly urges all member states of the commission to support the adoption of a “fins naturally attached” policy for all sharks. Such a policy would prevent fishermen from removing highly prized fins from a shark – often still alive – and dumping the carcass back to the ocean to save precious space on board for more valuable cargo. Such a policy would also minimize this wasteful practice through the full utilisation of the already caught animals.
Full text of WWF’s Position to ICCAT for the 26th Regular Meeting can be found here (for shark recommendations, go to pages 3-4).
An update on the proceedings of ICCAT’s annual meeting and the adopted measures will be shared after the meeting concludes.