European Shark Week starts tomorrow with people all over Europe coming together to support shark conservation. Here are 10 facts you might or might not know about sharks and their conservation.
1. Sharks have evolved over 400 million years, appearing roughly 200 million years before dinosaurs.
2. Most sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from depletion because they generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young. For example, spiny dogfish sharks don’t have babies until their teen years and give birth to as few as two young after a pregnancy of nearly two years!
3. Scientists estimate that 26 – 73 million sharks are killed each year for the global fin trade.
4. Most European shark fisheries have declined along with their target populations. Still, shark catches by EU vessels remain largely unregulated at a time when demand for shark meat and fins is rising.
5. One third of European shark, skate and ray populations are classified by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as Threatened with extinction according to the criteria of the Red List of Threatened Species (as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered); another 20 per cent are at risk of becoming so in the near future.
6. The best way to end finning (the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) is to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea (require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached).
7. The European Union, led by Spain, is a major exporter of shark fins to China and Hong Kong.
8. Shark fins are among the most expensive seafood products in the world, fetching up to €500 per kilogram.
9. The European Union (EU) is a significant consumer and trader of sharks. EU countries imported more than 26,000t of shark meat — nearly 30% of the world’s shark imports — in 2004. The same year, EU countries exported more than 40,000t of shark meat, fins and other products, just under 40% of world shark exports.
10. The EU pledged to develop a plan of action for sharks back in 1999 and finally released this in February 2009. Collaboration and action by EU Fisheries Ministers and the European Commission to is now needed to follow through on the Plan’s initiatives and truly safeguard sharks.