Since the mid-1980s, sharks have been under increasingly intense fishing pressure due to higher demand for shark products (meat, fins, skin, cartilage, etc.), especially in Asian markets. The over-exploitation affects the capacity of fragile shark populations to restore.
The EU strategy for sharks includes
- a strict protection of endangered species
- sustainable management of commercial species, including a strict fins-naturally-attached policy
- improvement of data collection
- support to research related to the biology, ecology and management
- enforcement of relevant rules
- traceability and certification of sustainably harvested shark products
Shark finning, a cruel practice of cutting off the fins and returning the remaining body to the sea, has been prohibited in the EU waters and for all EU vessels fishing worldwide. This is complemented by trade-related instruments to ensure that trade is not harmful to the conservation of shark species.
The EU is among the front runners in promoting conservation and sustainable management of sharks worldwide, both through at bilateral and multilateral level and in particular through its participation in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations RFMOs) and other relevant international organisations.
Action plan for the conservation and management of sharks
In 2009, the Commission adopted the action plan for the conservation and management of sharks (EU-POA Sharks) that was endorsed by the EU Council. This plan was inspired by the International Action plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA SHARKS) adopted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1999.
Memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks
The EU has also been the first signatory to the memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks, the first global instrument for the conservation of migratory species of sharks and rays.
Common fisheries policy (CFP)
The common fisheries policy (CFP) provides the tools and the framework to adopt science-based measures to minimise negative impact of fishing activities on marine species and habitats. The Commission monitors the implementation of the EU strategy and state of sharks and, in line with the CFP objectives, ensures a coherent approach between the internal and external fishery policy for sharks.
European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF)
Furthermore, the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) provides the possibility for EU countries to use the fund in order to provide support for innovative fishing techniques, more environmentally friendly and selective fishing gears. This also contributes to the sustainable management of many sharks and safeguarding many jobs of fishing communities.