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Conservation and management of sharks
The Action Plan contains legislative and strategic measures for the conservation and management of sharks. The measures may be implemented at Community level, Member State level or by Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs). Some measures may be applied immediately, while others may necessitate a longer-term commitment since they are based on scientific data and advice which is not always available.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 5 February 2009 on a European Community Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks [COM(2009) 40 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Sharks belong to the family of chondrichthyans or cartilaginous fish, as do skate and chimaera. Chondrichthyans include more than 1000 species which are very different from a morphological point of view. Some of them are almost extinct due to their biological cycle and over-fishing.
This Action Plan is based on the 1999 FAO International Plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks (IPOA SHARKS), the objective of which is to guarantee the conservation and management of sharks which had been decimated by the Community fleet.
This Action Plan pursues three specific objectives:
- to improve knowledge of fisheries and shark species, as well as their role in the ecosystem;
- to introduce sustainable exploitation of shark stocks and to reduce by-catches;
- to enhance a coherent approach between the internal and external Community policy for sharks.
This Action Plan applies to fisheries:
- located in Community waters;
- covered by an agreement or partnership between the Community and third countries;
- located in international waters (high seas);
- covered by a Regional Fishery Management Organisation (RFMO).
It covers directed commercial fishing, recreational fishing and bycatches of any chondrichthyan.
The Community must develop a gradual strategy to deal with shark-related issues. The development of this strategy is based on scientific data collected under the multi-annual Community programme for data collection pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 199/2008. This programme supplements the assessment of the stocks status carried out by the ICES working group on sharks through 2007-2009.
The conservation of shark species requires that regional cooperation be strengthened, through RFMOs, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The range of the different species is not limited to Community waters. It is for this reason in particular that the Community requests support for the work carried out by the RFMOs, reinforcement of the role of existing RFMOs in fisheries management policy and cooperation in creating new RFMOs in areas which lack them.
Proper management of shark stocks requires an integrated framework of actions. The Community Action Plan is structured in accordance with the FAO shark-plan. It includes a set of measures intended to improve data collection and scientific advice, management and technical measures and a further strengthening of the application of the shark finning ban.
The Community Action Plan foresees:
- increasing investments in shark data collection;
- establishing systems to provide verification of catch information by species and by fishery;
- improving the monitoring and reporting of catch, bycatch and discards, as well as market and international trade data;
- preparing and implementing measures to assist in species identification and monitoring, as called for in the IPAO-SHARKS;
- facilitating stakeholder awareness-raising and consultation regarding shark management and best practices to reduce by-catches;
- launching educational programmes aimed specifically at educating the public about chondrichthyan conservation programmes;
- adapting catches and fishing effort to available resources;
- limitation or prohibition of fishing activities in areas that are considered sensitive for endangered stocks;
- prohibiting all shark discards in the medium to long term and requiring that all catches be landed;
- increasing selectivity in order to reduce by-catches;
- confirmation of the shark finning ban.