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Species in the Spotlight 


European fishermen have a long history of catching a wide variety of sharks and rays. Some beleaguered species finally have EU protection while others are the subject of new, unregulated fisheries.

Here we profile some of Europe’s most heavily fished species.

Porbeagle shark
Lamna nasus

A powerful, torpedo-shaped, highly migratory shark closely related to great white sharks.

Shortfin mako shark
Isurus oxyrinchus

This wide-ranging shark, thought to be the world’s fastest, cannot out-swim today’s vast fishing fleets.
Found Cool waters in both hemispheres, including offshore in northern Europe.

Found Open-ocean waters around the world, including the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Demand Fins valuable and sold to Asia while sought primarily for meat.

Among the most highly sought of EU shark species, particularly by Spanish high seas longline fishermen. Both fins and meat are valuable
Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea; Vulnerable globally.
Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean Sea; Vulnerable in the Northeast Atlantic.
Fishing Limits EU commercial catch unregulated until 2008; reduced to zero from 2010.
Fishing Limits None for EU waters or vessels

Blue shark
Prionace glauca

This sleek, brilliant-blue shark is known to cross entire ocean basins.

Deep-sea gulper shark
Centrophorus granulosus
A small, dark-brown shark with glowing, green eyes. Thought to give birth to just one pup every two to three years.
Open ocean including the Mediterranean and Atlantic from Norway to South Africa.
The deep ocean, between 200 and 1,200 metres below the surface.

Demand Dominant species in Asian fin trade due more to high volume of catches rather than exceptionally high value. Increasingly sought due to growing markets for meat.
Demand Severely overfished off Europe for meat and the rich oil from their livers.
Near Threatened globally.

Status Critically Endangered off Europe (particularly Portugal); Vulnerable globally
Fishing Limits None for EU waters or vessels.
Fishing Limits EU quotas reduced biennially since 2005, set to go to zero in 2012.

Angel shark
Squatina squatina

This flattened species resembles skate and rays and can bury itself in sand to hide from predators.

Starry smoothhound
Mustelus asterias
A small, white-spotted shark that feeds primarily on crustaceans and was recently found to grow much more slowly than previously thought.
Once common in coastal waters of the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea; now rare and locally extinct in the North Sea and northern Mediterranean
Relatively shallow waters of the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.
Seriously depleted, despite their low value, due to incidental catch, particularly in trawls.
Increasingly sought after by fishermen off Atlantic continental Europe, primarily for meat.
Critically Endangered throughout European waters; Vulnerable globally.
Still officially listed by IUCN as Least Concern, but new studies report overfishing causing disappearance from much of former range, particularly in Southern Europe.
Fishing Limits EU prohibition on retention agreed in 2008, to start in 2009.
Fishing Limits None for EU waters or vessels.

Spiny dogfish or ‘Spurdog’
Squalus acanthias

A slender, white-spotted shark that grows to about 1 metre in length and travels in schools. Can live for many decades; remains pregnant for nearly two years.

Found Cool, coastal waters worldwide.

Smoked belly flaps popular in Germany.
Sold as ‘rock salmon’ in UK fish and chips shops. Fins not considered high quality but still traded internationally.

Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic; Endangered in the Mediterranean Sea; Vulnerable in the Black Sea and globally.

Fishing Limits
Excessive EU
commercial fishing quotas finally set at zero,
starting in 2011.



EU Shark Conservation: Recent Progress and Priorities for Action (pdf)

> Shark Fins in Europe: Implications for the Finning Ban (report/pdf)
> Closing the Loopholes on Shark Finning (briefing/pdf)
> Safeguarding Sharks (report/pdf)


* In the news *
Stricter shark fin ban lauded - Fishnewseu.com
Tiny sharks provide glowing clue - BBC Nature News
Fishermen catch former Monterey Bay great white shark - Monterey Herald
More articles
News on the shark finning regulation debate

European Shark Week: Thank you for making the push

View European Shark Week EU Country Profiles
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