This press release came through from the Shark Trust last week:
Cape Town, South Africa. November 25, 2013. Fishing nations at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed to reach consensus on several shark conservation proposals, including European Union (EU) bids to establish catch limits for shortfin makos and to prohibit retention of porbeagles. A multi-national effort to strengthen the ICCAT ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) was also defeated, yet gained support from a considerable number of ICCAT member countries during the meeting.
“Despite our deep disappointment over the final outcome for sharks at this meeting, we are encouraged by the growing number of countries taking a stand for international conservation of these exceptionally vulnerable species,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “In particular, we welcome support for stronger finning bans from Senegal and Gabon, and are hopeful that these voices signal increasing engagement from African nations in the global battle against overfishing and waste of sharks.”
The U.S., Belize, and Brazil were unsuccessful in their fifth attempt to strengthen the ICCAT finning ban by replacing the current fin-to-carcass weight ratio limit with a prohibition on removing fins at sea, due to strong opposition from Japan, China, and Korea. The move toward the more reliable “fins-attached” policy, however, gained co-sponsorship this year from the EU, Egypt, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Senegal, and the Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom.
“We continue to be encouraged by the expanding leadership toward stronger finning bans from countries in Latin America,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, International Counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. “Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama joining Brazil and Belize in co-sponsoring the fins-attached proposal demonstrates significant regional commitment and growing international momentum for this best practice.”
An EU proposal to establish catch limits for heavily fished, highly vulnerable shortfin mako sharks received general support from the U.S., but failed due to strong opposition from Japan, China, and Korea. ICCAT scientists have recommended measures to ensure shortfin mako fishing does not increase, yet makos are not subject to quotas under ICCAT or through the main Atlantic mako fishing nations of Spain and Portugal.
“We are grateful for the EU’s increasing efforts to secure shark conservation measures at ICCAT, and yet remind officials that there is much work to do for sharks in Europe,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for Shark Trust. “We encourage the European Commission to boost its case for ICCAT safeguards for sharks by establishing EU limits on oceanic sharks, especially makos, and by demonstrating for Asian delegations that the fins-attached method is feasible for large-scale, high-seas freezer fleets, using examples from Spain.”
For the fourth year in a row, Canada ensured the defeat of an EU proposal to protect porbeagle sharks.
For more information on the Shark Trust, click here.
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills
The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.
The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.
Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEO: “Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk.
We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”
Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm.
Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean.
The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.
Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours.
According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards.
Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “Untreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”
In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.
A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored.
Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant.
“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”.
If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.
For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.
Header image credit: Natasha Ewins
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