The recommendations follow the meeting here last week that brought together the experts from 15 Caribbean who discussed the status of the shark and ray populations in the Western Central Atlantic.
The meeting where the Regional Plan of Action for the conservation and management of sharks and rays (RPOA-Sharks) had been discussed, was told that the Western Central Atlantic, which includes the Caribbean Sea, is one of the top five most overexploited fisheries areas worldwide.
But the delegates were informed that fisheries production decreased from 2.5 million tonnes annually in the 1980s to 1.3 million tonnes in recent years and that shark catches in the Western Central Atlantic are only a two per cent of total fisheries catches in the region.
“The shark catches have however increased during the past years, to reach nearly 33 thousand tonnes in 2013, of which one-third is landed of one species, blue shark. When this species is removed from the catches, it becomes apparent that the overall catch of shark has declined by over 30 per cent in the last decade.
“This decline in catch is not a result of management or conservation measures. Currently reported shark landings by various countries in the region are a significant underestimation of reality, as anyone who has visited local fish markets can confirm,” according to a statement released here Tuesday by the organisers of the conference.
It said that the fisheries experts recommended amongst others that the countries in the region should prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea and require that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached through the point of first landing of the sharks.
“Moreover, the experts recommended the prohibition of targeted fisheries for iconic species such as whale sharks, sawfishes and manta rays. Incidental catches of these species should be promptly released unharmed and alive, to the extent possible,” the statement added.
The statement said that the experts at the meeting recognized the decline in various shark and ray stocks in the Caribbean, as well as the need to conserve the threatened species among them.
“They stressed the importance of harmonizing conservation and management measures with various international and regional conventions for the protection of these often-migratory species, as well as with measures by regional fisheries management bodies in the Atlantic.”
The meeting here was attended by officials from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Secretariat of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture of Central America (OSPESCA) and the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council of the United States Department of Commerce (CFMC).
Recommendations from this Working Group on the RPOA -Sharks and fisheries management will be reviewed by the Interim Coordination Mechanism for sustainable fisheries of WECAFC, CRFM and OSPESCA and is likely to be endorsed in 2018 by all countries in the region for implementation and enforcement to start in early 2019, the statement noted.
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