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BASKING SHARK CONSERVATION
Basking Sharks were not always protected and managed in UK and EU waters.
From 1946-1995 Basking Sharks were heavily fished in the Northeast Atlantic. Targeted for their liver oil and meat. Then for their large fins, which are prized in the shark fin trade.
Basking Shark fisheries displayed a typical ‘boom and bust’ pattern. Large volumes of mature Basking Sharks were initially caught. Followed by a rapid decline of landings. Until fisheries were no longer financially viable and collapsed. The last Basking Shark fishery in British waters closed in 1995. Leaving Basking Shark populations on the brink.
Globally Basking Sharks are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list. Worse still, they're Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic. Monitoring, management and further research is vital to ensure their survival. And this is why we created the Basking Shark Project!
In the UK Basking Sharks are protected under:
- Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
- Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004
These Acts make it illegal to intentionally kill, injure or harass Basking Sharks in British waters. Any person committing such an offence could face up to 6 months in prison and a large fine.
They’re also protected under:
- Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) - In 2007 Basking Sharks became a Prohibited Species in the EU. EU commercial fishing vessels are prohibited from targeting, retaining, trans-shipping or landing them. And this also applies to third country vessels in EU waters.
- UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) - In 1997 the Basking Shark was listed in the UK BAP - an inventory of the nation’s biodiversity. This identified the Basking Shark as in urgent need of conservation management and laid out detailed plans for their protection.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - The Northeast Atlantic sub-population of Basking Sharks is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. They have a very high risk of extinction in the wild. So, immediate monitoring and management is needed.
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - The Basking Shark is listed under Appendix II of the CITES. International trade is controlled to ensure it doesn't threaten the survival of the species.
- Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) - Basking Sharks are listed in Appendices I and II of the CMS. Basking Sharks know no borders, so it's vital they're protected in all waters. Cooperation across countries is vital.
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - The Basking Shark is listed under Annex I – Highly Migratory Species – of the UNCLOS. Article 64 of UNCLOS directs signatory States to cooperate to ensure the conservation of this species. As well as encouraging optimal utilisation if they're caught.
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