Loophole in EU law allows shark liver oil captured illegally around the world to reach EU consumers as Omega-3.
Oceana has called upon the European Commission to amend weak EU laws that leave European markets open to liver oil from illegally caught deep-sea sharks. In recent months, vessels which are internationally blacklisted because of previous Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing activities (IUU fishing) have been engaging in rampant pirate fishing for deep-sea sharks in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Although the EU regulation on IUU fishing is intended to prohibit illegally-caught fish from entering the European market, a loophole in this law means that it does not apply to shark liver oil.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe has called for immediate action, “Vulnerable deep-sea sharks have become the new gold pursued by internationally renowned poachers – including vessels that have been linked to European interests. As long as EU rules against IUU fishing neglect this product, European borders remain wide open to illegal shark liver oil.”
Deep-sea sharks are found in all of the world’s oceans. They are targeted by fishing fleets for their liver oil (which is used in Omega-3 dietary supplements, in cosmetics, and as industrial lubricants), and also for their fins and meat. With slow growth rates and late maturity, these species are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation.
“Concerns about the unsustainability of catching deep-sea sharks have led to a growing number of prohibitions on these fisheries, including within the EU,” added Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist for Oceana Europe. “Clearly, it’s inconsistent for the EU to ban these fisheries, yet to leave the door open for illegal shark liver oil to enter the European market.”
Information about recent IUU fishing activities for deep-sea sharks
Since 2011, pirate fishing vessels flying flags of convenience have been spotted fishing for deep-sea sharks with gillnets in the Pacific Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean. Some of these vessels, such as the Octopus-1, and the Seabull 22, are blacklisted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CCAMLR), for illegally fishing Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Their ongoing IUU activities continue, and the beneficiaries of these activities apparently remain unpunished.
In addition, the Northern Warrior, another vessel which is not blacklisted, has been fishing illegally for deep-sea sharks in the Pacific Ocean. She called into port in Vigo (Spain) in November 2011, where she remained until January 2012, when she moved to fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean.
Learn more: Deep-sea sharks