Who is killing sharks in the Atlantic?

blue shark

Millions upon millions of sharks are being killed in the Atlantic by European fishing vessels, with just one country – Spain – accounting for a massive 57% of reported landings. Other countries involved in the overfishing of  Atlantic and Mediterranean sharks include Portugal, France and the United Kingdom. Despite the shocking number of sharks being killed it is believed that the actual number is likely to be three or four times greater than official figures suggest, due to many sharks being discarded in the ocean as unwanted catch (or bycatch). It is estimated that between 2002 and 2012 EU nations accounted for over 40% of global shark catch.

The majority of sharks are caught by pelagic long liners while fishing for the target species of tuna and swordfish. With shark meat being eaten in some Mediterranean countries, as well as the continued demand for shark fins, shark cartilage capsules, liver oil, and other uses, fishing companies are now seeing it as commercially viable to land sharks. This means there is now less incentive to stop catching sharks, as they are moving from being “bycatch” to “target catch”.

The Shark Trust has set up a website called No Limits? No Future which is aiming to both inform the public and gain widespread support for science-based limits on the number of sharks that can be caught. A petition has been launched which urges national governments, the European Commission and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to stop uncontrolled shark fishing. Sign it here.