Sonja Fordham – Overfishing not only threatens marine biodiversity, but overall planetary health. Sharks are among the Ocean’s most threatened animals, due to excessive, often unregulated fishing.
Long considered ‘commodities’ due to their valuable meat, fins, and oil, sharks are now increasingly being viewed as wildlife. Despite their rising profile and heightened conservation concern, sharks are still not being granted effective protection.
Several European countries are among the world’s top shark fishing nations and lack the most basic catch limits for several heavily fished shark species. To help address threats to sharks, conservationists have turned to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). For species listed on CITES Appendix II, Parties are required to ensure that exported products are legally and sustainably sourced.
Taking centre stage at the last CITES meeting in August were the exceptionally swift and wide-ranging mako sharks, which won Appendix II listing with support from the 28 EU Member States. The shortfin mako is one of the world’s most vulnerable and valuable shark species.
Mako population declines have resulted from largely unregulated fishing, exacerbated by exceptionally low growth rates. Female shortfin makos don’t reproduce until about age 20, after which they produce an average of only 12 pups, every other year. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the species as ‘endangered’, yet no international mako quotas have been agreed.
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