Environmental Initiatives

Media Inquiries

If you are a journalist and would like additional information, please visit the Media Contacts page.

Media Contacts

Subscribe to News Feeds

Pew offers news delivered to your desktop via RSS feed. Subscribing is easy. To learn more or get started, follow the link below.

Subscribe to News Feeds

For The Record

When Pew’s work is questioned or criticized we respond through letters to the editor or op-eds.

Read Pew's Responses

Alternative Fishing Gear Can Reduce Shark Mortality

Press Release

City

Washington/Istanbul

CONTACT:

Joanna Benn, 202.540.6611
Dave Bard, 202.486.4426

Pew lays out simple steps to cut bycatch numbers

Read the paper:

shrk-bycatch-mitigation-150-lw

A new global scientific review  shows that simple changes in fishing gear could significantly reduce the large number of sharks unintentionally caught in the world’s oceans. The paper, “Fisheries Bycatch of Sharks: Options for Mitigation,” released today by the Pew Environment Group, outlines practical options for reducing shark injury and death from commercial fishing, a leading cause of shark population decline.

Although sharks are not the primary target of most fisheries, they can make up the majority of the catch in some regions of the world. Pew’s Ocean Science Division worked with two scientific experts to research options to reduce shark bycatch, which occurs when the animals are caught in fishing gear set for other species. Viable modifications found by the researchers include changing the type of bait; switching the material used to create leaders, which attach fishing lines to hooks; and modifying the shape of hooks. Fishermen sometimes use wire leaders to maximize shark catch, but replacing the wire with nylon can allow sharks to break free because they can bite through the line.

To receive a high resolution version of one of these photos, please contact Kymberly Escobar.

“Banning wire leaders and not allowing vessels to retain certain species would help reduce the vast number of sharks caught and killed in Atlantic fisheries,” said Jill Hepp, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting is a good place to build support for using some of these new methods to avoid catching sharks in the first place.”

The scientific review, released at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Istanbul, reports that in the U.S. Atlantic, sharks made up 25 percent of the total catch of the pelagic (open ocean) longline fishery between 1992 and 2003. In 2009, fishing vessels belonging to ICCAT members reported catching 58,100 metric tonnes of blue sharks, 264 metric tonnes of porbeagles, and 5,605 metric tonnes of shortfin makos in the Atlantic.

The convention’s scientific committee says progress has been made in recent years to protect bigeye thresher, oceanic whitetip, and hammerhead sharks in the Atlantic. The committee recommends that silky sharks receive the same level of protection, since these animals were classified in ICCAT’s most recent Ecological Risk Assessment as being among the most vulnerable species. 
 
“While enhanced protections are now helping to safeguard certain species, the majority of sharks remain under threat due to countries’ overall lack of political will to control the amount of bycatch hauled in by their fishing vessels,” Hepp said. “This review spells out clearly that there are plenty of options available to make fishing more sustainable when it comes to sharks, which, coupled with better fisheries management, would go a long way toward protecting these animals.”

The increasing demand and high prices for shark fins means fishermen have little motivation to release these animals while they are still alive. Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primarily to support global demand for fins, which are prized in Asia as a delicacy in soup.

Notes:

  • The 22nd regular meeting of ICCAT is taking place Nov. 11-19 in Istanbul. At this year's meeting, the Pew Environment Group is advocating a ban on retention of porbeagle and silky sharks; establishment of concrete, precautionary catch limits for shortfin mako sharks; and prohibitions on wire leaders and the removal of shark fins at sea.
  • The Pew Environment Group also recommends that ICCAT members strengthen controls on illegal fishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna and other species; end overfishing and support sustainable fishing methods; and make ICCAT's charter stronger so that internationally agreed-upon commitments are met.
  • Some regional fisheries management organizations require species-specific reporting of shark landings, prohibit finning, seek reductions in fishing mortality, encourage the live release of sharks, or ban the retention of certain species such as threshers, hammerheads, or oceanic whitetip sharks.
 

Related News and Resources

  • Protecting the High Seas From Peril

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 01, 2014
    All the activity in the open ocean raises questions about who is monitoring and managing the ocean’s long-term health. As of now, the job is vacant, which is why delegates from around the world are at the United Nations in New York City this week.

    More

  • Climate Change Taking Toll on the Ocean

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 31, 2014
    A United Nations panel released its latest assessment of the impact of climate change on the world’s environment, focusing on issues such as food supply and economic security.

    More

  • Pew Comments on Amendment 28 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 25, 2014
    On March 25, 2014, Chad W. Hanson of The Pew Charitable Trusts wrote a letter to Doug Boyd, Chairman of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, regarding Amendment 28 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan [Red Snapper Allocation].

    More

  • Pew le otorga al científico Hoyt Peckham la beca de investigación 2014 en conservación de recursos marinos

    • Press Release
    • Mar 12, 2014
    El Dr. Hoyt Peckham, un pionero en la incentivación de la pesca artesanal para promover el manejo de los recursos marinos con sede en La Paz, México, ha recibido una beca de investigación Pew 2014 en la conservación de dichos recursos marinos para ampliar su trabajo en la incentivación de la pesca sostenible a lo largo de la costa del noroeste de México a otras comunidades de la región y a nivel mundial. Peckham está trabajando con los pescadores locales y sus cooperativas para restablecer el valor de sus pesquerías, reforzando sus prácticas de sostenibilidad mediante el aumento de la demanda de sus mariscos y sus pescados.

    More

  • Pew Awards Author Paul Greenberg the 2014 Fellowship in Marine Conservation

    • Press Release
    • Mar 12, 2014
    Paul Greenberg—an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food—has been awarded a 2014 Pew fellowship in marine conservation to prepare a book focusing on the human demand for Omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood and its impact on the sustainability of the world’s oceans.

    More

  • Pew le otorga al científico chileno Stefan Gelcich la beca de investigación 2014 en conservación de recursos marinos

    • Press Release
    • Mar 12, 2014
    Se ha reconocido al Dr. Stefan Gelcich, profesor adjunto de la Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile con una beca de investigación Pew 2014 para la conservación de recursos marinos en un nuevo proyecto que examinará los incentivos sociales, económicos y ecológicos que permitan desarrollar zonas de protección, en conjunto con pescadores artesanales, a lo largo de la costa chilena. Este científico estudiará la integración de áreas marinas protegidas y pesquerías con derechos de uso territorial, como una estrategia para la conservación a largo plazo de los recursos oceánicos y su sostenibilidad.

    More

  • Pew Awards Shark Scientist Demian Chapman the 2014 Fellowship in Marine Conservation

    • Press Release
    • Mar 12, 2014
    Demian Chapman, Ph.D., a scientist with Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has been awarded a 2014 Pew fellowship in marine conservation for a new research project to determine how recently enacted international regulations affect the trade in the fins of protected shark species. Sharks have been heavily fished to supply the international fin trade, depriving marine ecosystems of some of their most important top predators and endangering species dependent on them.

    More

  • Pew Awards Malaysian Mammal Scientist the 2014 Fellowship in Marine Conservation

    • Press Release
    • Mar 12, 2014
    Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam, Ph.D., a scientist with the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and co-founder of grassroots NGO, The MareCet Research Organization, has been awarded a 2014 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to conduct new research on the country’s population of dugongs, a large coastal marine mammal that resembles the manatee.

    More

  • Pew on the Road: Visiting Fishing Communities in the Southeast

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 07, 2014
    In just the past two months, Pew staff hit the road to talk with commercial fishermen and their families at a seafood festival, meet with anglers at a boat show, learn about the latest developments in marine science at a fisheries science conference, and film important underwater locations in the U.S. Caribbean.

    More

  • Speak Up for Emperor Penguins

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 03, 2014
    The emperor penguin colony made famous in the Academy Award-winning documentary “March of the Penguins” faces extinction because of climate change.

    More

  • Save the Boreal, Save the Caribou

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 03, 2014
    For millennia, the people who live in the far reaches of North America’s boreal forest have relied on woodland caribou for their survival. Now, the tables have turned.

    More

  • Engineering Pacific Bluefin's Comeback

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 03, 2014
    Pacific bluefin could make a relatively quick comeback from unsustainable fishing practices. They just need a bit of practical help.

    More

  • Dispatch From Fiji: Putting New Shark Protections to Work

    • Other Resource
    • Feb 27, 2014
    The listings in Appendix II of CITES for porbeagle sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two species of manta rays mandate that all international trade in these species must be legal and sustainable.

    More

  • Oregon: One Last Piece of the Puzzle

    • Other Resource
    • Feb 24, 2014
    California and Washington conserve forage fish in state waters for the sake of the ecosystem. Action by Oregon state leaders is the last piece of the puzzle.

    More

  • Technology for Fisheries Monitoring and Surveillance

    • Other Resource
    • Feb 20, 2014
    Monitoring and surveillance of fisheries is a complex and challenging problem. Traditionally, ships and aircraft have been the mainstay of surveillance efforts, however, the use of satellites and other technologies by fisheries enforcement officials has increased in recent years.

    More

See more...

X
Sign In

Member Sign In

Forgot Password?
Submit Not a Member? Join!
X

Forgot Password?

Send Password Not a Member? Join!
X

Change Password

X
(All Fields are required)
Send Message
Share this on: