Late last week, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopted an international ban on shark finning in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The lucrative market for “shark fin soup” is the driving force behind finning – the practice of slicing off a shark’s fin and dumping the rest of the body back into the ocean.
The Shark Resolution, which also aims to improve information about sharks in IATTC fisheries, was co-sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Japan and Nicaragua and received vocal support from Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico.
The 15 IATTC Parties adopted the final Resolution, pertaining primarily to Eastern Pacific tuna fisheries, by consensus.
“We are elated that the IATTC has acted to ban the wasteful practice of shark finning, thereby taking a huge step towards safeguarding some of the ocean’s more vulnerable animals,” said Sonja Fordham, shark conservation specialist for The Ocean Conservancy who spoke on behalf of numerous conservation, scientific and fishing organizations during the IATTC
“We are grateful for continued U.S. leadership in international shark conservation initiatives and encouraged by the global momentum toward addressing the depletion of sharks.”
The world’s first international prohibition on shark finning was adopted last fall by the sixty-three member countries of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as part of a suite of shark measures.
The new IATTC Shark Resolution is modelled after the ICCAT agreement; many of the participating countries are active in both Commissions.
IATTC members and cooperating nations with domestic finning prohibitions include the United States, the European Union, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Canada.
“The IATTC finning ban will do much to reduce the needless killing of massive amounts of blacktip, silky and blue sharks, to name a few, that are caught in the region’s high seas tuna fisheries. Some tropical Pacific shark populations have already declined by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s, according to scientific reports,” explained Kelly Malsch, International Associate for Defenders of Wildlife.
“Because sharks serve as top predators, this IATTC action is essential to keeping the Pacific Ocean ecosystem in balance.”
Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly and produce few young. The World Conservation (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group (SSG) estimates that finning causes the death of tens of millions of sharks worldwide each year.
Presently, the IATTC is the only forum capable of providing international measures for sharks in the Eastern Pacific, where some of the world’s largest tuna and billfish fisheries exist.
The new Resolution mandates much-needed shark data collection and assessment programs while encouraging research into shark nursery areas and ways to avoid incidental catch (“bycatch”) of sharks.
“IATTC has taken a big step forward, but sharks remain in peril all over the world,” added Charlotte Mogensen, European Fisheries Policy Officer for the World Wildlife Fund.
“We urge other Regional Fishery Management Organizations and shark fishing nations to adopt not only finning bans, but requirements for shark data collection, bycatch reduction and precautionary limits.
The success of the IATTC Resolution will hinge on effective monitoring, enforcement, follow-up management and consistent measures in adjacent seas.”
The IATTC Shark Resolution includes a call for countries to implement National Plans of Action for shark conservation in accordance with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization 1999 International Plan of Action for Sharks.
Thus far, few countries have developed shark National Plans and there are still no international limits on shark catch.
Source: Ocean Conservancy