Most-Fished Shark in the World Denied Protection

blue shark
blue shark

Published Dec 15, 2018 3:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

A U.N. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) meeting last week failed to agree protections for the blue shark - the most heavily fished shark in the world.

A majority of countries attending the CMS Sharks Memorandum of Understanding (CMS Sharks MOU), at a meeting in Monaco last week, wanted to work together to conserve the blue shark. However, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and South Africa all spoke out against the proposal, and so the species was denied. Despite the lack of any sort of conservation-based management, the proposal was rejected for listing because data suggesting major declines was not enough to sway its opponents. 

Humane Society International says the rejection is a terrible outcome for the species which is caught in numbers up to 20 million every year. "It will now be three years until the blue shark can be proposed again for listing under this international agreement. In that time, another 30 to 60 million blue sharks will be caught and killed without the international cooperation and attention that this species sorely needs. It is deeply disappointing that Australia, which used to be a champion for shark protection, spoke out against the listing,” said Nicola Beynon, Head of Campaigns at Humane Society International. 

"Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) throughout the world do nothing to slow the catch of blue sharks. We know that 60 percent of the range of this highly migratory shark overlaps with tuna fisheries, making this the perfect candidate for the CMS Sharks MOU and its strategy to engage with RFMOs to address unsustainable shark fishing. We are extremely disappointed that this opportunity has been missed,” said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at Humane Society International.

The meeting did see six new species of sharks and rays added to the sharks MOU. The angelshark, dusky shark, the common guitarfish, the bottlenose wedgefish, the oceanic whitetip shark and the smooth hammerhead will now be listed for conservation through the MOU. 

Humane Society International and all other NGOs in attendance spoke in favor of listing of all seven species up for protection at the CMS meeting, and will continue to advocate for the blue shark to be conserved around the world despite the outcome of the CMS Sharks MOU.    


In his opening address, Robert Calcagno, Director of the Museum for Oceanography in Monaco, said: “Sharks symbolize our lack of understanding of the underwater world, which feeds on fear of the unknown. More than any other marine animal, they maintain a nefarious reputation, inspiring fear in many among those who know them the least and the fascination of the divers who come into contact them.

“They also symbolize the hunger that can take hold of humans and be quickly devastating, as is the case of those large animals that dominated the oceans for millions of years before being decimated by a sudden craze for soup.

“They symbolize the terrible mess to which this craze can lead, with the growth of finning which led to the rejection of more than 95 percent of the weight of sharks, when however their flesh, skin, liver oil or cartilage could also be exploited.

“They are symbolic representatives of alpha predators, the top of the ocean's food chain, these regulators so important to the global balance of biodiversity.

“Finally, and this brings us to this week's work, sharks embody these great migrants, these tireless travellers of the seas that know no borders. They enjoy the freedom of the seas, it seems, and yet it is the absence of rules that has caused their downfall.”