Sri Lanka Protects Thresher Sharks

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SAI News Release
Media contact: Liz Morley: 843.693.5044

Major fishing nation bans thresher landing and sale based on Indian Ocean Tuna agreement

Washington, DC. August 3, 2012. Shark Advocates International is congratulating the government of Sri Lanka for adopting rules to protect three species of thresher sharks - wide ranging species characterized by their exceptionally long tails - in line with a 2010 agreement by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). Sri Lanka ranks 14th in the world for shark catches. The new regulation prohibits catch, retention, transshipment, landing, storage, and/or sale of whole bodies or parts of common, bigeye, or pelagic thresher sharks, and applies to fishing vessels operating in Sri Lankan waters or the high seas, as well as those using Sri Lankan ports. The measure also mandates the careful release of any thresher sharks caught incidentally in other fisheries, and proper recording of such incidents.

"We congratulate Sri Lanka for taking decisive action to protect these particularly vulnerable shark species," said Shark Advocates International President, Sonja Fordham. The thresher measure is modeled after an IOTC Resolution proposed by the European Union and adopted in 2010. IOTC discussions and fish market visits since reveal that very few countries have adopted national thresher protections as agreed.

"We urge other Indian Ocean fishing nations to follow Sri Lanka's lead and take the domestic steps that are vital to making international shark conservation measures work," said Fordham.

Shark Advocates International (SAI) works closely with Project AWARE, Shark Trust, and Humane Society International to promote Indian Ocean shark conservation. SAI is urging Sri Lanka to strictly enforce the thresher protections and follow them up with measures to benefit other species, including:

  • Strict protection for the giant manta ray, pursuant to 2011 commitments under the Convention on Migratory Species;
  • Precautionary fishing limits on other valuable yet vulnerable species, such as makos, hammerheads, silky sharks, and devil rays;
  • Active support of trade measures for threatened shark and ray species through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species;
  • A national shark plan pursuant to the United Nations International Plan of Action for Sharks.

Notes to Editors:
The new regulation applies to the common thresher (Alopias vulpinus), the bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosis), and the pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus) and was issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The IUCN classifies all three thresher species as "Vulnerable" under the Red List for Threatened Species.

Sharks are taken incidentally in fisheries for other species, but are also targeted for their meat and fins.

Shark Advocates International (SAI) is a project of The Ocean Foundation established to provide leadership in advancing sound policies for sharks and rays. Based on nearly 20 years of shark conservation achievement, SAI works to secure science-based limits on shark fishing and trade, protection for endangered species, and stronger bans on shark finning.