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Shark protection measures an EU first

30/03/2012

Changes introduced by the Scottish Government mean vulnerable species of sharks, skates and rays now have greater protection, over and above EU legislation.

The Scottish Government is the first in Europe to introduce legislation protecting such a wide range of species. The Sharks Skates and Rays (Prohibition of Fishing) Order came into force today (March 30) and covers 26 species – including angel sharks, tope sharks, common skate and undulate rays.

The legislation extends current protection measures with a landing ban for recreational anglers, as well as prohibiting commercial fishermen from catching vulnerable tope.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Sharks, skates and rays form an important part of Scotland’s rich marine biodiversity. Some of these species are critically endangered and this legislation will mean that we have gone above and beyond EU legislation to offer greater levels of protection.

 “With a landing ban across both commercial and recreational fisheries, we can help support stock recovery for vulnerable shark, skate and ray species. This legislation builds on Scotland’s leading protection measures for sharks – including our proactive decision in 2009 to strengthen the ban on barbaric shark finning.

“Recreational anglers will still be permitted to fish using the 'catch and release' method, while the tagging programmes undertaken by anglers can continue. This important initiative is providing invaluable data about sharks in Scottish waters and will help inform policies about how best we can protect these stocks in the future.”

Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, said:

“A legacy of unregulated fisheries worldwide has heavily impacted on a number of populations, with certain species found in Scottish waters now critically depleted. Adoption of the Scottish Elasmobranch Protection Order is extremely proactive, complementing existing fisheries management and consequently aiding the recovery of these endangered species. The Shark Trust will now look to the rest of the UK to follow Scotland’s example.”

Ian Burrett, the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network's (SSACN’s) Project Director said:

"Now that tope has joined common skate and porbeagle in being given the highest levels of protection in Scottish waters, SSACN would like to see the EU extend that protection in all European waters.

“Sea angling attracts over 110,000 participants and contributes around £150 million each year to the economy. Without the efforts of all involved any other management solutions could have had serious implications for our sport and all those businesses and coastal economies reliant on it."

Willie Kennedy, SSACN's Events Manager, added:

“There is still a lot more to be learnt about the stock dynamics and migratory patterns of Scotland's inshore sharks. We will continue to gather information through the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme, to help ensure the future of shark stocks and sea angling in Scotland."

Mike Park, Chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, said:

"It is right that we take all steps possible to protect vulnerable species and groups of species. Bringing recreational sea angling into line with restrictions currently imposed on commercial fishers makes a great deal of sense."

The Sharks, Skates and Rays (Prohibition of Fishing, Trans-shipment and Landing) (Scotland) Order 2012 means that Scotland now goes beyond EU protection measures.

Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) generally have slow reproductive rates, making them highly vulnerable to over-exploitation.

The species covered by the Scottish Order are: angel shark, common skate, white skate, porbeagle, spurdog, knifetooth dogfish, sailfin roughshark (sharpback shark), greater lanternshark, undulate ray, leafscale gulper shark, Portuguese dogfish, blackmouth catshark (blackmouth dogfish), longnose velvet dogfish, black dogfish, Greenland shark, six-gilled shark, velvet belly, deep-water catsharks, frilled shark, birdbeak dogfish, kitefin shark.

Related information

The shark finning ban was strengthened in Scotland in 2009.

The Scottish Shark Tagging Programme is run by the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network.