Ocean News

Bluefins and shark fins: good news for both

14th September 2009

One of the more significant pieces of news over the past few days is that a potential ban on bluefin tuna fishing in Europe is seeming significantly more likely than it has in the past few years. Bluefin tuna have been subject to incredibly intense fishing pressure, leaving many with the belief that they’re on the brink of extinction. However, the European Commission has recently pledged its support for getting bluefin tuna listed as an endangered species, subject to the latest stock assessment.

As such it seems promising that the EU members will vote to protect bluefin tuna under CITES Appendix 1, and if approved by a majority of 175 nations internationally this would effect a ban of all international trade in bluefin. Hopefully this move will pave the way for a much needed reprieve in bluefin fishing pressure, helping populations recover and their future exploitation sustainable. But of course this will be dependent on agreement between member states, and of course enforcement of any legislation restricting the trade of bluefin products.

Along the coast of Alaska there has also been a stark reminder of the wide spread influence of climate change. Thousands of walruses have been taking up residence there as their usual haunts only ledges of Arctic ice melt away. Not only is there concern that the large influx of these predators will disrupt the coastal ecology through their predation pressure, but also aggregating in such large numbers, whilst usually dispersed across the ice, there have been stampedes that have resulted in the trampling of many individuals, particularly juveniles.

On a more positive note, Florida continues to highly regulate shark fishing in the state’s waters with new regulations to be imposed that will prohibit entirely the harvesting of sandbar, Caribbean sharpnose and, of particular personal interest, silky sharks. Silky sharks have been one of the most heavily exploited species for the fin trade, experiencing population declines in excess of 90% in some regions, so the news of a moratorium on their exploitation in Florida’s waters is very welcome news indeed, and hopefully other states and nations will begin to follow their lead. Additional planned legislation to be implemented includes restricting catches of other species to those in excess of a minimum size and only allowing hook-and-line gear to be used for shark fishing.

I shall sign off for now, it’s great to be reporting some genuine progress in marine conservation, albeit on the gloomy backdrop of climate change.