The porbeagle shark lives about 100m below the surface, feeds on mackeral, herring and squid, and minds its own business as it rarely interacts with humans if left unprovoked. Even though its populations can be found all throughout the Atlantic Ocean, it is often thought of as Canada’s shark.
Unfortunately, it appears that government officials from its adopted nation are not feeling all that welcoming towards their own shark.
This past week, Canada single-handedly blocked a motion put forward by the EU to ban all Atlantic Ocean fishing of porbeagle sharks at an ICCAT (the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an international organization that helps to mange fish species whose habitats extend beyond national boarders) conference in Morrocco. There were 47 other countries set to agree on this ban, with Canada being the only opposition.
Porbeagle shark populations were reduced by up to 90% between 1960 and 2000 and have been classified as “Endangered” by the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) since 2004. However, the porbeagle shark does not have Species At Risk status in Canada, which means it can still be fished.
A combination of advancements in fishing gear since the 1960’s and unsustainable fishing practices have lead to their decline in population.
Although in recent years fishing restrictions placed on the porbeagle shark have helped increase the population, it is not enough. Porbeagle sharks can live to be over 40 years old and don’t start reproducing until the age of 13. As a species with a long life history and a low reproductive rate, the probeagle shark’s population will be slow to recover and will take multiple generations to get back to what it once was.
Any statements as to why Canada has requested to be exempt from this fishing ban have yet to be released, though you could speculate that the high market price of porbeagle shark meat is a motivating factor.
In 2010, Canada had the largest reported total catch of porbeagle sharks in the world with 83 tones. Japan and Norway followed far behind with second and third place at 13 and 12 tones, respectively.
In fear of what might happen if Canada did not comply with the terms of the fishing ban, a Haliax-based NGO, Ecology Action Centre, collected 20 000 petition signatures in hope of changing Gail Shea’s, Canada’s Fisheries Minister, mind before the ICCAT conference.
Unfortunately, this time these petition efforts were in vain. Canada’s failure to agree on this ban has been said to cause a snowball effect among the other nations. Since porbeagle sharks can move freely across borders, the ban won’t work unless all nations are in agreement. Other nations feel that if Canada is getting a piece of the porbeagle shark pie, they want it too.
It’s really disappointing to Canada single-handedly disrupt the porbeagle shark finishing ban. Countless studies have made it known that sharks are an important part of marine ecosystems.
With all of the obstacles the ocean is currently facing, the very least we can do is try and protect what we have before it’s too late.