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Laws Protecting Sharks

Countries are now beginning to pass legislation to protect sharks

Photo Credit: Misool Eco Resort
Laws Protecting Sharks

Historically sharks were not considered important species to fisheries managers and conservationists because they were not economically important and very little was known about them. As data became available, it became clear that shark populations were declining and conservation measures were needed for many species. Currently, there are several conservation and management initiatives and plans that operate on many levels from international conventions to local laws.

Bans on Shark Fishing

National level management is the task of every country but not all have taken on the task of developing sound management practices or assessing those already in place for sharks. In recent years, shark management, conservation and protection has taken the form of bans of finning, regulations of fishing (area and seasonal closures, catch quotas, gear restrictions, etc.) and shark fin trade bans.

American Samoa

2012

Shark fishing and possession of sharks within three nautical miles of shoreline was banned in Nov 2012

Bahamas

2011

All shark fishing, sale and trade in shark products was banned in the Bahamas in July 2011

Cook Islands

2012

Shark fishing is banned in area of 1.9 million km2

Congo-Brazzaville

2001

All shark fishing is prohibited in Congo-Brazzaville (966 km2)

Egypt

2005

Shark fishing is prohibited throughout Egyptian Red Sea territorial waters to 12 miles from the shore as is the commercial sale of sharks.

Fiji

2011

In July 2011, Fiji announced pending legislation to ban all shark fishing and sale in shark products.

French Polynesia

2006

In 2012, French Polynesia permanently banned shark fishing and trade in all sharks.

Honduras

 

Moratorium on shark fishing while permanent shark protections are under review.  Affording sharks an area of 240,240 km2 of protection.

Israel

1980

All elasmobranchs are protected in Israeli waters (27,346 km2)

Maldives

2010

All shark fishing is prohibited in the Republic of the Maldives (916,189 km2)

Marshall Islands

2011

Commerical fishing of sharks is prohibited in all of the Marshall Islands (1,990,530 km2). Any shark caught accidentally by fishing vessels must be set free.

 

Palau

2009

All shark fishing is prohibited in Palau (604,289 km2)

 

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

2010

All shark fishing is prohibited in the Regent of Raja Ampat  (46,000 km2)

Tokelau

2011

All shark fishing is prohibited in Tokelau (Area – 319,031 km2)

 

Bans on the Sale of Shark Fins and Products

 

Bahamas

2011

All shark fishing, sale and trade in shark products was banned in the Bahamas in July 2011

Cook Islands

2012

Possesion and sale of shark productes banned in December 2012

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

2011

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins was prohibited in January 2011 (with an exception for subsistence fishing).

Egypt

2005

Shark fishing is prohibited throughout Egyptian Red Sea territorial waters to 12 miles from the shore as is the commercial sale of sharks.

Fiji

2011

In July 2011, Fiji announced pending legislation to ban all shark fishing and sale in shark products.

French Polynesia

2006

In 2012, French Polynesia banned shark fishing and trade in all sharks. (Area – 4,767,242 km2)

Guam

2011

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins and ray parts was prohibited in March 2011 (with an exception for subsistence fishing).

Hawaii, USA

2010

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins is prohibited in the state as of July 1, 2010.  (Area – 2,474,884 km2)

Marshall Islands

2011

Possession and sale of any sharks or shark products. 

Oregon, USA

2011

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins was prohibited (with an exception for dogfish)

Washington, USA

2011

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins was prohibited in May 2011.

California, USA

2011

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins was prohibited in October 2011.

Illinois, USA

2012

Possession, sale and trade of shark fins was prohibited in July 2012.

 

Domestic Regulations on Shark Finning

 

Argentina

2009

The practice of retaining fins and discarding carcasses is banned.

Australia

Various

States and Territories govern their own waters, which extend to three nautical miles offshore. Central government regulates „Commonwealth‟ (Federal) waters, from three to 200 nautical miles offshore. Most States and Territories ban finning, and some require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached.

Brazil

1998

Prohibits landing of shark fins without the corresponding carcasses. The total weight of fins shall not exceed 5% of the total weight of carcasses, all carcasses and fins must be unloaded and weighed and the weights reported to the authorities.

Canada

1994

Finning in Canadian waters and by any Canadian licensed vessel fishing outside Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is prohibited. When landed, the fins must not weigh more than 5% of the dressed weight of the shark.

Cape Verde

2005

Shark finning is prohibited throughout the EEZ.

Chile

2011

Sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached to their bodies.

Colombia

2007

All sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached to their bodies.

Costa Rica

2001- 2006

Regulation AJDIP/47-2001 required fins to be landed attached to shark carcasses. This was replaced by AJDIP/415-2003, permitting fins to be landed separately from carcasses, but the “fins-attached” requirement was reinstated in 2006.

Ecuador

2004

Directed fishing for sharks is banned in all Ecuadorian waters, but sharks caught in “continental” (i.e. not Galapagos) fisheries may be landed if bycaught. Sharks must be landed with fins attached in all fisheries. A previous ban on trade in shark fins was lifted in 2007.

El Salvador

2006

Shark finning is prohibited. Sharks must be landed with at least 25% of each fin still attached in the natural way. The sale or export of fins is prohibited (be they fresh, frozen or dried) without the corresponding body.

England and Wales

2009

All sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached.

European Union

2009

Prohibits finning in EU waters and by EU vessels worldwide. Requires sharks to be landed with fins naturally attached, unless a Special Permit has been issued to allow onboard removal of fins and landing in separate ports.

Mexico

2007

Shark finning is prohibited. Shark fins must not be landed unless the bodies are on board the vessel. In 2011, Mexico banned shark fishing from May-August each year.

Namibia

2000

Namibia generally prohibits discards of harvested or bycaught marine resources. Namibia's National Shark Plan, adopted in 2003, recommends the formulation of legislation under the Marine Resources Act to prohibit finning of any shark species.

Nicaragua

2004

Prohibits vessels from having fins on board or from landing land fins that weigh more than 5% of the total weight of the sharks. Those who wish to export fins must first prove that the meat has been sold.

Oman

?

Sharks must be landed, transported, sold or disposed of whole. It is strictly forbidden to throw away any shark part or shark waste in the sea or the shores of the Sultanate of Oman. It is also prohibited to land shark fins separated from the body, unless otherwise authorized by competent authority.

Panama

2006

Shark finning is prohibited in all Panamanian waters. Industrial fishers must land sharks with fins attached naturally. Artisanal fishers may land the fins separately but the weight ratio must be no more than 5% fins to whole weight of sharks.

Seychelles

2006

Fins may not be removed onboard a vessel unless authorization is granted. Applicants are required to produce evidence that they have the capacity to utilize all parts of the shark. Fins may not be transshipped. Fins landed separately from carcasses must weigh no more than 5% (after evisceration) or 7% (after evisceration and beheading).

South Africa

1998

Sharks caught in South African waters must be landed, transported, sold or disposed of whole (they can be headed and gutted). However, fins from sharks caught in international waters may be landed in South Africa with fins detached from carcasses.

Spain

2002

It is illegal to have shark fins onboard without the corresponding carcasses. Compliance is verified through the use of a conversion system of fins to carcass weight.

Taiwan

2012

Bans shark finning for domestic fleets, but excludes "fishing vessels within the area of competence of international fisheries organizations and unloaded at foreign ports."

United States

2011

All sharks must be landed with their fins fully or partially attached in the natural way in all federal waters (with an exemption for smooth dogfish)

 

Regional Fisheries Shark Finning Regulations

Many shark species do not recognize national boundaries so it is necessary for a network of regional bodies to recognize the need and take action in shark management and conservation.

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

2004

The ICCAT finning ban requires full utilization (defined as retention by the fishing vessel of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches. Fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of the sharks onboard. Does not specify if it is whole or dressed weight.

General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM)

2005

Same as ICCAT. Requires full utilization (defined as retention by the fishing vessel of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches. Fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of the sharks onboard.

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

2005

Same as ICCAT - full utilization (defined as retention by the fishing vessel of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches. Fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of sharks onboard.

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)

2005

Same as ICCAT - full utilization (defined as retention by the fishing vessel of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches. Fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of sharks onboard.

Southeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SEAFO)

2006

Same as ICCAT - full utilization (defined as retention by the fishing vessel of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts and skins, to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches. Fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of sharks onboard.

North Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO)

2005

Similar to ICCAT and IATTC.

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

2008

Full utilization (retention of all parts of the shark excepting head, guts, and skins), to the first point of landing or transshipment of retained sharks. Fins should make up no more than 5% of the weight of sharks onboard. Fins may be landed and transhipped separately.

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

2006

Directed fishing on shark species in the Convention Area, for purposes other than scientific research, is prohibited. Incidental catch of sharks taken in other fisheries should be released alive as far as possible.

North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)

2007

Full utilization (all parts of the sharks except head and guts to the point of first landing) of entire shark catches required. Shark fins should not total more than 5% of the weight of sharks. Fins may be landed and transshipped separately from other shark parts.

 

Recommendations & Resolutions on Shark Finning

Although not considered to be globally effective, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) did create an International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks). This non-binding agreement indicates that all States should create and implement a National Plan of Action for Sharks (NPOA-Sharks). However, Lack and Sant (2011) found that 13 of the top 20 countries of shark catchers, accounting for nearly 80% of total reported shark catch, have NPOA-Sharks but only a few of those are managing the fishery well.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

1999

The International Plan of Action for sharks calls on all States to minimize waste and discards, such as through requiring the retention of sharks from which fins are removed.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

2007

Calls on all States to consider requiring sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached.

IUCN - World Conservation Union

2008

Calls on States with fisheries that capture sharks, whether in directed fishery activities or as accidental by-catch of other fisheries, to require at the point of first landing that sharks be landed only if their fins are naturally attached to their bodies, though allowing for partial detachment of fins to permit efficient storage and species identification.

United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement

2010

Calls on all States to consider requiring sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached.

 

Marine Protected Areas

The Cocos Marine Reserve

972 km2

The Galapagos Marine Reserve

6,937 km2

The British Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean’s No Take Zone

554,000 km2

Sala y Gomez Island, Chile, No Take Zone

150,000 km2

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area (1/3rd of the reef)

100,000 km2

 

*Samoa has also declared a Shark Sanctuary, but does not yet have any regulations defined, affording a possible 131,812 km2 area of protection.

Other international treaties can be applied to shark management and conservation, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES effectiveness in shark conservation is regularly called into question. In 2010 at the CITES Conference of the Parties 15, Palau and the United States introduced two proposals to list three hammerhead species and oceanic whitetip sharks in Appendix II, and the EU proposed porbeagle sharks and spiny dogfish. Five of these six proposals received majority votes but did not receive the required two-thirds vote due to heavy lobbying by Japan, China and Indonesia, claiming any marine species is out of the scope of CITES, NOT disputing that the proposed species met the criteria for listing.

References

Lack, M. and Sant, G. 2011. The future of sharks: a review of action and inaction. TRAFFIC International and the Pew Environmental Group.

Sanchez, A. 2010. Presentation to the FAO/CITES Workshop on the Effects of a Regulation of International Trade on the Status, Fisheries and Trade of Elasmobranchs in Comparison with Other Regulations. Genazzano (Rome), Italy, 19-23 July 2010.

Lack, M. and Meere, F. 2009. Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action for Sharks: guidance for Pacific Island Countries and Territories on the conservation and management of sharks. Forum Fisheries Agency Secretariate fo the Pacific Community and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

European Union. 2009. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on a European Community Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Com (2009) 40 Final. Available at: http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0040:FIN:EN:PDF

United Nations Environment Programme. 2003. Action Plan for the Conservation of Cartilaginous Fishes (Chondrichthyans) in the Mediterranean Sea. Available at: http://www.unepmap.org/index.php?module=library&mode=pub&action=results&_styp=3&s_category=&s_descriptors=Chondrichthyans.