Endangered North Atlantic Sharks Now Protected By Global Agreement

Nova Scotia’s continental shelf is now a safe zone for North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks after long-awaited legislation to protect them was passed.

Endangered sharks are found everywhere, from the Atlantic waters of Canada to the Caribbean Sea. Overfishing has caused the shark population to decline, and environmental groups have long lobbied for backed by science ban on retention (keeping sharks when they are caught, even accidentally).

Since last week, Canada has been at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which attracts countries from around the world to make decisions on migratory fish.

On Tuesday, after a virtual debate lasted hours in time, all parties agreed that until 2023 the retention of the shark will not be allowed.

A longer ban would have been ideal, explained Shannon Arnold, coordinator of the marine program at the Ecological Action Center (EAC) in Nova Scotia, but the compromise seemed like a necessary step for all nations to come together.

Although Canada has had its own ban on retaining shark in Atlantic fisheries since 2020, other parts of the world still actively fish for it. In Spain, Portugal and the USA, Mako sharks are fished for food, as fins and as a sport. However, the European Union catches most of the species: 74 percent of the reported catches of makos in 2020 came from the EU.

Since a unanimous vote is needed to pass new rules through ICCAT, the group voted in favor of the ban, but with a “complicated formula that may offer a way for some parties to resume [debating retention] after the pardon ”, explained the EAC.

However, Arnold hopes the ban will last longer because a 2017 report found that it would have to be in place for several years to allow the population to recover. For 10 years, the population will continue to decline even with a hold ban and will not fully recover for 50 years, according to the report.

“There was enormous pressure from the EU to have access [to makos]”Said Arnold, who observed the meetings.

“… They’ve been blocking it for years, so this is an important step. Because once you have that hold ban, it will be very, very difficult to lift it based on the data and the science that will come in. “

On Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a long-awaited ban on the retention of the North Atlantic shortfin mako was approved.

Across the pond, the UK-based Shark Trust group congratulated Canada, the UK, Senegal and Gabon for leading the fight for the Makos.

“At last, we have the basis for a game-changing reconstruction plan, but it will not succeed if we look away from the EU and its egregious intention to resume fishing a decade before reconstruction is forecast to begin. “, said. Ali Hood, Conservation Director for the Shark Trust.

“Right now, however, we focus on the overwhelming chorus of concern that helped us make this critical breakthrough. We are deeply grateful for the ‘voices of the Makos,’ the continued calls from conservationists, divers, scientists, aquarists, retailers and elected officials to protect this beleaguered shark. “

Another victory at the meeting, Arnold said, concerned bluefin tuna, the world’s largest species of tuna where individual fish can grow up to six feet long. Their number decreased by 11 percent between 2017 and 2020, but they have started to increase. However, conservationists have warned that increasing fishing quotas too quickly will be detrimental to the recovering stock.

What was decided at the ICCAT meeting was a modest increase of around 40 tonnes for Canada, Arnold said, which includes the stock that Canada trades with Mexico.


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