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PEW Asks WCPFC For Urgent Measures To Protect Sharks Global, March 7, 12

The PEW environment group will be urging the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to adopt conservation measures to protect sharks, at the annual WCPFC meeting later this month.
“Even though the WCPFC is the most modern of the tuna RFMO’s and has the clearest mandate to protect species within its jurisdiction, it is the only tuna RFMO that has not taken meaningful action on sharks. The WCPFC must act to ensure that targeted fishing and by-catch do not deplete shark species and drive them to extinction,” says the group in their policy statement released yesterday.
The WCPFC manages an area that covers almost 20% of the Earth’s surface and it is home to the world’s largest tuna fishery. Delegates from 25 member governments will meet in Guam from March 26-30 to make decisions that affect this region.
PEW has several proposals, including a ban that will prohibit purse seine vessels from intentionally setting nets around whale sharks. About 60 whale sharks were killed by fishing nets in 2009 in WCPFC fisheries and the species is “vulnerable” to extinction, as classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
This ban is already being enforced by the PNA. The eight Pacific Island countries introduced the measure to the WCPFC back in 2010, but the proposal was not approved.
Intensive fishing by tuna vessels is also depleting the oceanic white tip shark population. PEW is urging the WCPFC to prohibit the retention of this species and to establish catch limits for North Pacific blue sharks as a precaution.
Two other RFMO’s are already setting an example by taking measures to protect the oceanic white tip sharks in their regions. In recent years, ICCAT and IATTC both mandated zero retention policies for these sharks while fishing for tuna.
PEW is also motioning for mandatory fishing gear changes to reduce the by-catch of sharks. Many longline vessels use a harmful wire leader to secure their catch, but the group argues single monofilament nylon leaders are more effective in reducing by-catch and increasing the target species.
Finally, the organization is asking the WCPFC to improve the enforcement of its ban on shark finning. The environment group says the ban can be strengthened by preventing the removal of shark fins at sea. In this way, vessels would be required to bring sharks to port with their fins attached.
PEW’s policy statement also outlines conservation measures for tropical tunas and proposes critical actions to strengthen controls against IUU fishing.