The principal shark fisheries
The North Atlantic holds a number of shark fisheries found in EU or third-country waters (Norway, Faeroe Islands, etc.) and in international waters governed by different regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). These include coastal fishing zones in Northeast Europe for sharks and rays, demersal and semi-pelagic fishing zones in the Northeast Atlantic and deep-water shark fishing zones.
EU vessels take some 56 000 tonnes of elasmobranch species in these regions, where fisheries management is the responsibility of different RFMOs (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)). Catches mainly include rays and small demersal sharks, with few large pelagic sharks being taken.
One of the main problems with the management of sharks in this zone stems from the mixed nature of demersal fisheries: it is quite difficult to implement actions to protect sharks without serious repercussions for the other species caught. Furthermore, the significant overcapacity of the flotillas that take small sharks and rays as by-catches in demersal zones are also an important source of management problems.
Central and South Atlantic
In the Central Atlantic, where the main target species are tuna and saury, by-catches of pelagic sharks are managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Although sharks are rarely caught with purse seines or pole-and-line-fishing equipment, surface longliners have a catch rate of around 68%, compared to 30% for tuna and swordfish. These shark catches amount to around 31 000 tonnes a year and consist mainly of blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and short-finned makos (Isurus oxyrinchus), with blue sharks making up 75% of the total shark catches. Fisheries targeting demersal sharks are banned in the Southeast Atlantic zone, which is managed by the South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO).
The main groups of species caught are tropical tunas, swordfish and sharks. The latter are principally blue sharks (Prionace glauca), which account for up to 88% of total shark catches. The other species caught in large quantities is the short-finned mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), which makes up around 9% of total shark catches.
Two RFMOs manage tuna fisheries in the Pacific: the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in the eastern zone and the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC) in the central and western zones. The Community is a contracting party to the second organisation but has merely observer status in the IATTC. Landings of sharks rose sharply between 2001 and 2005, from around 400 to 6100 tonnes.
As in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and short-finned makos (Isurus oxyrinchus) are the pelagic sharks found most often in catches and landings by surface longliners that operate in the Pacific Ocean.