Madrid lobby groups demand shark protection

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About 13,000 Spaniards have signed a petition demanding greater protection for sharks from capture, consumption and commercialisation.

MADRID – Thousands of Spaniards have signed a petition demanding greater protection for sharks from overfishing, marine protection campaigners Oceana said Thursday.

The document, signed by about 13,000 people, has been handed to Spain's marine ministry, the group working with fellow environmental campaigners, the Shark Alliance said in a statement.

According to these organisations, Spain is fourth in a world league table for shark fishing, with the European Union, "principally due to Spain", a global hotspot for shark "capture, consumption and commercialisation".

"We are asking the Spanish government to protect sharks" through "the rapid application" of conservation measures outlined in a European Commission action plan drawn up in February, the statement added.

The Commission recommended that fishing boats be banned from hacking off valuable fins on board then throwing the rest of the shark back in the water.

Its plan also includes possible temporary fishing exclusion zones to protect young or reproducing sharks and tightened rules on fishing gear to minimise unwanted catches and ensure such catches are released back into the water.

Oceana and the Shark Alliance said that measures should also include quotas based on scientific research, saying "urgent action" was needed to avoid the "exhaustion of species vital to marine ecology".

EU member countries are due to present their responses to the action plan by April, with the package requiring approval by member states and the EU parliament.

A recent study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature suggests that as many as one-third of the shark species caught in EU waters are threatened by excessive fishing.

Sharks are targeted by British, French, Spanish and Portuguese fleets, with the Spanish fishing fleet taking more than half of the European catch of around 100,000 tonnes each year, according to the Shark Alliance, which provided Brussels with data.

Shark meat is served in restaurants across Europe, including at traditional British fish-and-chip shops, according to WWF.

The European Commission said that between 1984 and 2004, world shark catches grew from 600,000 to over 810,000 tonnes per year.

Of these, more than half are taken in the North Atlantic, including in the North Sea.

AFP / Expatica

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