Great white sharks that live off the coast of California are now candidates for protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The California Fish and Game Commission voted today to initiate a comprehensive one-year review of the white shark population to determine if it qualifies for state protection. The state will also consider management measures and new regulations to better protect the sharks. Today’s decision is based on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation to accept a petition to protect the white sharks, filed in August 2012 by three conservation groups. The conservation groups commend both the Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife for recognizing the science documenting the perils facing this population of iconic sharks.
Following campaigning by Oceana, great white sharks off the California coast have been awarded ‘candidacy’ status under the California Endangered Species Act, which means the state will consider an array of possible management measures that can be put into place to reduce bycatch of white sharks. Possible measures include time and area closures of the fisheries where white sharks are caught, modifications to fishing gear, and strict limits on how many of the sharks may be captured incidentally as bycatch. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will now embark on a one-year in-depth status review of the population. Once the review is complete, the Commission will vote on whether or not to officially list white sharks as threatened or endangered.
After campaigning by Oceana to stop overfishing in the Baltic Sea, the Uusimaa and the Southeast Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment voted to ban all wild sea trout fisheries in the Gulf of Finland to give the stock a chance to rebuild. In the summer of 2012, alarming surveys from the Baltic Sea found that wild sea trout had become critically endangered in the region. Until recently there were no limits to how much wild sea trout could be caught despite a steady decline in recent decades and evidence that populations in Finland and Russia were well below historic levels.
After 18 months of negotiations, the Fisheries Committee of the EU parliament voted to put in place new measures that would effectively end overfishing and greatly improve the way the EU manages its fisheries,which have been historically some of the poorest managed, and most overfished in the world. In recent years, the majority of its scientifically-assessed fisheries have been found to be overexploited. The new measures includean obligation to set catch limits above maximum sustainable yield levels by 2015, in order for stocks to recover by 2020, and a clear ban on discards. Oceana has been campaigning for these changes for years. The new reforms now go to a vote before the entire European Parliament.
The state of California announced that state-regulated forage fisheries like squid and herring would embrace a new ecosystem-based management system, with an eye towards sustainability. Forage species are the base of the marine food web, providing a food source for larger predators, including whales, sea lions, sea birds and more. The new policy will “freeze the menu”, i.e., prevent the development of new forage fisheries or expansion of existing fisheries unless and until there is adequate science available to ensure that those species can be fished sustainably and without negative consequences for their predators.
The European Parliament approved a strict ban on shark finning, closing a crucial loophole in EU law by requiring that all sharks caught in EU waters, and by EU vessels in international waters, be landed with their fins attached. This is a monumental achievement for sharks and one that Oceana campaigned for. The EU is the world’s largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong and mainland China and the new EU rule represents a huge step forward in the conservation of sharks.
In response to petitions filed by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, Shark Stewards and WildEarth Guardians, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it would consider the West Coast population of great white sharks for listing on the federal Endangered Species Act. The announcement shows that NMFS recognizes the perils facing this unique population of great white sharks. NMFS will conduct an in depth status analysis of the population and will make a final determination of whether to add this population to the federal endangered species list by June 2013.
The EU voted in favor of strictly protecting 10 threatened species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean Sea, under the Barcelona Convention. These species, including hammerheads, tope, and shortfin mako, have declined dramatically in numbers – some by as much as 99% during the last century – while others have vanished from parts of the Mediterranean where they were once common.
The California Senate designated the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as California’s official state marine reptile and declare October 15 every year as Leatherback Conservation Day. Oceana was a sponsor and supporter of the bill, and generated statewide support from thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation entities including the California Fish and Game Commission. The bill is intended to recognize the importance of California state waters to the survival and recovery of this ancient sea turtle species.
For the first time in its 60-year history, the FAO’s General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean took action for shark protection. The Commission adopted measures for the management and conservation of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean, the region of highest risk in the world for these fishes. Twenty-three Mediterranean countries endorsed a proposal from the EU that bans the unsustainable practice of shark finning, prohibits trawling in some sensitive near-shore habitats, and requires countries to collect and report data on catches of some threatened species.