Group Bans Catches Of Some Sharks, Leaves Tuna Limits Little Changed

Paris, France (NewsBahn) – Delegates from 48 countries ended a week-long conservation conference here Saturday with an agreement on new protections for several species of endangered sharks, but failed to tighten limits on harvesting bluefin tuna.

Members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas voted to ban the fishing and sale of seven species of sharks whose numbers have dropped drastically due to overfishing. The ban covers oceanic whitetip sharks and six types of hammerheads:

  • Great
  • Scalloped
  • Scoophead
  • Smalleye
  • Smooth
  • Whitefin

Populations of these sharks are estimated to have declined up to 99 percent in various oceans around the world.

Catch of bonnethead sharks, a type of hammerhead, will still be allowed in the Atlantic, as well as fishing for hammerheads by coastal communities where the fish is intended for eating.

At the same time, delegates reduced by only 4 percent the quota of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna that could be taken in waters off Europe, or to close the fish’s spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean. The 2011 quota for the eastern Atlantic was cut from 13,500 metric tons to 12,900 metric tons and from 1,800 metric tons to 1,750 metric tons in the western Atlantic

Scientists believe the species is in danger of becoming commercially extinct, and some at the meeting had called for deeper cuts. Dr. Michael Hirshfield, head of the delegation for conservation group Oceana, called the result a “massive failure for bluefin tuna and swordfish, with only modest progress for sharks and sea turtles.”

“Despite the flowery rhetoric, it was ‘business as usual’ for ICCAT,” Hirshfield said in a statement.

Oceana’s fisheries campaign manager, Maria Jose Cornax, termed as “trivial” the quota reductions for bluefin tuna. “Without an industrial fishing closure, it actually encourages illegal fishing and fails to ensure stock recovery.”

A proposal by U.S. delegates to ban the removal of shark fins at sea was turned back after Japan objected.

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