08/08/11 Critically Endangered sharks remain vulnerable as the Government fails to list them on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(WCA).
With population declines of up to 95%, British species such as the Porbeagle, Spurdog and Common Skate are no longer found in abundance off our shores. The impact of decades of unmanaged fisheries has reduced these long-lived species to critically endangered levels.
Despite fulfilling many criteria for listing under the WCA there has been a reticence to see these once commercially fished species listed under ‘wildlife’ protection. Schedule 5 of the WCA listing makes it illegal to harass or disturb listed species. And although European fisheries management now prohibits the targeting or landing of these species, the lack of WCA listing leaves them vulnerable to non-commercial activities such as retention by recreational anglers.
“Yet again the Shark Trust is disappointed that an opportunity to protect some of our most iconic species has not been realised,” commented Ali Hood, Shark Trust Director of Conservation.
“It has taken years of lobbying to secure a prohibition on the commercial fishing for these species and the Shark Trust will now be seeking assurance from the Minister that protection from recreational activities will be delivered through an alternative mechanism.”
“The Shark Trust was pleased however, to have the listing of the less contentious White Skate and the extension of range for the Angelshark confirmed.”
The recently published Defra Shark, Skate and Ray Conservation Plan pledges to manage shark stocks sustainably, delivering bespoke conservation measures if required. The Shark Trust will now be proposing alternative, ‘bespoke’ actions to secure a future for endangered species in our waters.
The Shark Trust: Established in 1997, the Shark Trust is the UK registered charity which works to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action.
The Trust is: an effective and well respected advocate for sound shark management and protection; a founder member of the Shark Alliance; the Secretariat of the European Elasmobranch Association; and a membership organisation which provides a link between the public and the science community. The Trust works through cross-sectoral collaboration and where possible works with governments and industry to attain sustainable goals.
The Shark Trust advocates for effective and well enforced shark finning regulations and has been instrumental in the adoption of European and domestic policies.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981):The Act makes it an offence (subject to exceptions) to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild animal listed on Schedule 5, and prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection, or intentionally disturbing animals occupying such places. The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking wild animals. Contravention of the Act is punishable by fine or a prison sentence.
Elasmobranchs Proposed for Wildlife and Countryside Act listing:In 2008 the Shark Trust proposed to JNCC that six threatened species of elasmobranchs were afforded the protection of Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. These species are:
Angelshark Squatina squatina
Porbeagle Shark Lamna nasus
Spurdog Squalus acanthias
Common Skate Dipturus batis
White Skate Rostroraja alba
Undulate Ray Raja undulata
Five of these species (Angelshark, Porbeagle Shark, Spurdog, Common and White Skate) are now listed by the IUCN (www.redlist.org) as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic. These species were reportedly formerly common, widespread and landed in large numbers in either targeted or mixed fisheries. Populations of these species have been seriously depleted (some to local extinction) by decades of unregulated fisheries. The Undulate Ray has been proposed on the grounds that it is at the northerly extreme of its distribution, and listed by the IUCN as Endangered. It was nominated as a precautionary measure.
Defra’s summary of response: http://archive.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife/management/documents/wildlife-countryside-act-gov-response110805.pdf
Identification material available for all British shark, skates and rays at: www.sharktrust.org/id
Recreational Sea Angling: The Shark Trust position statement on recreational sea angling and angler resources such as best practice guides and species recording forms can be found at: http://www.sharktrust.org/hlf
Defra Shark Skate and Ray Conservation Plan:can be downloaded at http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/documents/interim2/shark-conservation-plan.pdf