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Sharks In Danger Due To Over Fishing In North Atlantic

November 10, 2008

Sharks in the North Atlantic are in serious danger of being driven out of existence due to the fishing activities of nations such as Spain, Portugal, France and Britain, according to Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The group said action must be taken immediately in order to change the current downward trend. Among new changes, the IUCN said tougher fishing controls would be needed in the European Union. A zero catch for spiny dogfish and all deepwater sharks is also recommended.

“Action is absolutely necessary to change the current course toward extinction of these remarkable ocean animals,” said Sonja Fordham, co-author of the first IUCN report assessing threat levels for sharks specifically in the northeast Atlantic.

Critically endangered sharks in the Northeast Atlantic included the gulper shark, prized in the cosmetics industry for its liver oil, and the two sharks most valued in Europe for their meat — the spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks.

The EU already has fishing quotas in place for spiny dogfish and porbeagles, but the IUCN said the quotas don’t do enough.

“These species are among the few that are subject to EU fishing quotas and yet those limits are set well above the zero catches advised by scientists with the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for avoiding collapse.”

The basking shark, the world’s second largest fish, was listed as vulnerable.

Some 26 percent of sharks and rays in the Northeast Atlantic region were classified as threatened, compared to 18 percent for the same species globally, the report found.

“Deepwater sharks are faring worse in this region than globally, due to loosely regulated, targeted fishing by European vessels,” it said.

In mid-December in Brussels the European Council of Ministers will agree 2009 EU catch limits for skates and rays as well as spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks.

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