Scientists sign letter urging for better management of European deep-sea sharks

Deep-sea sharks, who spend the majority of their life at depths below 200 meters, are among the most vulnerable species to overfishing in the world. Their growth and productivity rates are some of the lowest observed in any animal species, and knowledge about life histories, abundances, and population statuses is greatly lacking. That’s why the Dutch Elasmobranch Society created a letter urging European fisheries ministers to prioritize sustainability considerations, and minimize impact on sharks when deciding on catch limits for deep-sea fisheries during this November’s Agrifish Council meeting. Even though targeted fisheries for deep sea sharks have fortunately ceased in the EU, minimal effort is made to reduce bycatch and collect essential data on their abundance and distribution. This November, Ministers will have to decide on sustainable management for EU fisheries in the deep-sea for the next two years.

By signing the letter, scientists declare to agree on a clear need for a dedicated management plan covering all deep-sea cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays and chimeras) that are potentially bycaught in EU deep-sea fisheries, which should include a list of measurable objectives for:

1.           Increased data collection;
2.           Improved gear selectivity;
3.           Avoidance of areas and depths with a known high abundance of deep-sea sharks.

The European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) adopted the letter as an EEA resolution during their 21st Annual General Meeting in Peniche – Portugal on October 14, 2018, and 85 marine scientists signed on individually.

The letter was sent to fisheries officials throughout the EU with the hope they will consider the plight of deep-sea shark populations, and make conscious decisions to help restore and protect the sharks of the European deep sea.