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Shark Info   (09-15-2001)



Accident analysis as a measure for active shark protection

Shark Info

  Main article:

Accident analysis as a measure for active shark protection

Dr. E. K. Ritter

  Article 1:

Is fear of sharks justified?

Nihal Özkara

  Article 2:

Annual Meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society (AES)

Jürg Brunnschweiler

  Article 3:

Meaningful usage or overexploitation?

Harald Gay

  Fact Sheet:

Mackerel Sharks

Dr. E. K. Ritter

Meaningful usage or overexploitation?

By Harald Gay

Mackerel shark

A dead mackeral shark (Lamna nasus).

© Innerspace Visions / Shark-Foundation

The fact that on June 26, 2001, a school of almost 500 mackerel sharks (Lamna nasus) landed in the nets of Danish fishermen in the North Sea was a sensation for science and naturally also for the daily press. However, while scientists were thrilled to discover that the once thought almost extinct mackerel shark was again to be found in the region, the press concentrated on pushing the panic button.
In the wake of the media uproar on the Florida shark incident reports, the real question posed by reporters to scientists was - in my opinion -: "Are the beaches of the North Sea in danger because of the "flood of sharks"? A marine biologist and scientist from the Federal Research Office for Fisheries in Hamburg replied to a reporter's question on the catch of the Danish fishermen 250 seamiles off the coast of Jutland as follows: "It's equivalent to a six in Lotto". When Shark Info questioned the scientist he replied that this quote was cited out of context and that he simply wanted to point out the probability of such a catch rather than underline the luck of the fishermen.

However, the real explosive issue of this news did not come through in the headlines, for the mackerel shark (Lamna nasus) is a seldom found guest in the waters of the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The reason is that since the mid-70s, Norwegian fishing fleets called an all out war on this shark species, putting it on the edge of extinction with their large catches! So according to the press release it was sheer luck that Danish fishermen encountered such a large school of these sharks. The fishermen took advantage of the opportunity and had a real go at them as though they were in some kind of gold rush, massacring almost 500 mackerel sharks. A grim welcome indeed.

It is not yet clear if they fished the sharks illegally with nets, which would explain the large catch. According to current EU rights which are binding on all European fishing nations, mackerel sharks may only be caught using long lines. Upon addressing the Royal Danish Fishing Office on this question, the only reply received was that longline fishing in Denmark was not the usual practice due to the minimal catch results. But fishermen are not required to provide data on catch, i.e. on catch methods. The only information sought and registered in a databank are auction results and related data on the amounts.

The reason for the unrealistic catch quota for mackerel sharks established by the EU lies in the fact that a more detailed investigation of shark populations in European ocean waters is not possible because of the obscure legal situation.

One Greenpeace activist and ocean biologist from the Wattenmeer Protection Station commented very critically on this event. Their comparison, in my opinion, was very suitable: "It is as though 500 lions had been massacred in the Serengeti, with the one difference that in such a case people would have been shocked and as a result would have initiated fund-raising drives to improve protection of these animals."

Personally, I feel that the expression "meaningful usage of ocean resources" in this connection has become a farce because it only serves to foster overexploitation and is equivalent to our cutting the groove on the branch that we are sitting a little deeper. Once again my eyes were opened to the fact that protecting species is not a remote problem but instead one which is found directly on our doorstep.

* Harald Gay is correspondent for Shark Info in Germany.

May be published only by indicating the source: Shark Info / Harald Gay



last change: 06-04-2016 11:48