2010 Management Resolutions

Resolution Regarding Atlantic Cownose Rays
American Elasmobranch Society
July 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas the fishing industry along the East Coast, particularly in Virginia and Maryland, is aggressively promoting targeted fishing, new markets, and eradication programs for cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) through state governments, seafood shows, the media, and their “eat a ray, save the bay” initiative (which suggests cownose ray consumption is good for the environment);

Whereas cownose rays are among the least fecund marine vertebrates, with females maturing around age eight and usually producing just one pup per year after an 11 month gestation period;

Whereas large scale removal of a similar South American species, Rhinoptera brasiliensis, led rapidly to population depletion followed by an IUCN categorization as Endangered;

Whereas there have been no assessments of East coast cownose ray population status or sustainable catch levels;

Whereas there are no limits on cownose ray fishing and no concrete plans for managing the fishery; 

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society urges Atlantic states where cownose rays are being landed, particularly Virginia and Maryland, to immediately impose precautionary cownose ray catch limits and initiate development of a population assessment and science-based interstate management plan, as a matter of priority.

Resolution Regarding the EU Ban on Shark Finning
American Elasmobranch Society
July, 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas several European Union (EU) Member States contribute significantly to global trade in shark fins and support vessels that fish all over the world;

Whereas the effectiveness of the EU shark finning ban is undermined by the associated regulation that allows fishermen to land shark fins and carcasses separately in different ports and grants the highest fin-to-carcass weight ratio in the world (5% of whole weight);

Whereas U.S. scientists have determined that 5% of the dressed weight of a shark represents an upper limit for fin-to-carcass ratios;

Whereas Canadian and U.S. fishermen abide by a 5% dressed weight fin-to-carcass ratio and U.S. Atlantic fishermen may also not remove shark fins at sea;

Whereas all the world’s international finning bans, in order to be consistent with the EU fin-to-carcass ratio and lower ratios, intentionally do not specify “dressed” or “whole weight”, thereby allowing for leniency on a global scale;

Whereas shark scientists at a 2006 European technical workshop reviewed available data regarding EU shark fisheries and recommended improving the effectiveness of the finning ban by replacing the fin-to-carcass ratio with a requirement that sharks be landed with fins naturally attached;

Whereas the European Commission pledged in 2009 to strengthen the EU finning regulation and is expected to soon engage the public in consultation over a range of options to do so;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society urges the European Commission to propose without further delay measures to strengthen the EU ban on shark finning by minimizing (ideally to zero) the number of vessels permitted to remove shark fins at sea and requiring that such vessels land shark fins and carcasses simultaneously under an allowable fin-to-carcass ratio that does not exceed 5% of the dressed weight of the shark.

Resolution Regarding Northwest Atlantic Hammerhead Sharks
American Elasmobranch Society
July 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas there are no species-specific catch limits for Northwest Atlantic scalloped, great, or smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini, S. mokarran, S. zygaena) under the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Plan;

Whereas a population assessment for the Northwest Atlantic hammerhead complex based on catch and population trend data from multiple studies found a 72% decline in abundance from 1981 to 2005 (Jiao et al 2008), and an assessment specific to S. lewini using similar data sources reported an 83% decline since 1981 (Hayes et al. 2009);

Whereas NMFS is currently reviewing these hammerhead shark assessments and their applicability to U.S. Atlantic fishing limits;

Whereas the U.S. unsuccessfully proposed these hammerhead species for listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in March 2010;

Whereas measures to prevent overfishing and rebuild populations of hammerhead sharks off the U.S. are urgently warranted and would likely improve the chances for success should the U.S. decide to propose hammerhead protections at the next CITES meeting;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society urges the National Marine Fisheries Service to promptly propose and finalize species-specific fishing limits for scalloped, great, and smooth hammerhead sharks, in line with the results of the review of existing population assessments and other relevant scientific advice for the species.

Resolution Regarding US Positions at Regional Fishery Management Organizations
American Elasmobranch Society
July 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas the United States is a Party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO);

Whereas Parties to ICCAT and NAFO will consider scientific advice with respect to allowable catches of elasmobranch species at their 2010 annual meetings;

Whereas the NAFO Scientific Council is preparing updated advice regarding the NAFO total allowable catch (TAC) for thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata);

Whereas ICES and Canadian scientists have reported serious declines in North Atlantic porbeagle (Lamna nasus) biomass, ICES scientists have recommended a ban on landing Northeast Atlantic porbeagles, and Canadian scientists have estimated the recovery time for Northwest Atlantic porbeagles at up to 100 years;

Whereas ICCAT scientists have concluded that North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrhinchus)are likely overfished and a reduction in fishing mortality on this population is necessary to improve this status; and

Whereas ICCAT Parties adopted a binding recommendation to reduce fishing mortality on North Atlantic shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks which exempts countries with peer-reviewed stock assessments (not science based management measures) and fails to mandate specific fishing limits;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society urges the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare proposals for the upcoming annual meetings of ICCAT and NAFO for catch limits for thorny skates, porbeagles, and shortfin makos that are in line with available scientific advice and the precautionary approach and are binding on all Parties.

Resolution Regarding American Sawfish
American Elasmobranch Society
July 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas, all the world’s sawfish species are classified as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species;

Whereas, pursuant to a petition from a conservation organization (WildEarth Guardians), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in May 2010 proposed listing the largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti) as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on a status review of the species and the best available data;

Whereas finalization of the proposal would result in strong U.S. federal protections for the species and government efforts to encourage other range countries to take similar steps;

Whereas the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) was listed under the ESA as Endangered in 2003 and a recovery plan completed in 2009;

Whereas the U.S. smalltooth sawfish recovery plan can serve as a model for sawfish conservation initiatives around the world, particularly if it is properly implemented;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society urges the National Marine Fisheries Service to move forward with listing largetooth sawfish as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act and work to ensure prompt and full implementation of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan.

Resolution Regarding the Shark Conservation Act
American Elasmobranch Society
July 2010
Providence, Rhode Island

Whereas finning -- the practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea -- is wasteful, often contributes to excessive shark mortality, and has been banned in all United States (U.S.) waters;

Whereas the U.S. House of Representatives has passed and the Senate has yet to act on the Shark Conservation Act, a bill that would ban the removal of shark fins at sea, apply finning measures to vessels other than fishing vessels, establish a process for encouraging comparable shark conservation programs in other countries, and allow for the ultimate sanction of countries without such programs;

Whereas a requirement that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached greatly simplifies enforcement of the shark finning ban and enhances collection of species-specific data needed for shark population assessment;

Whereas the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has prohibited the removal of shark fins at sea for fisheries of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, but not for those of the U.S. Pacific;

Whereas the ability to block imports of shark and other seafood products from nations whose standards for shark conservation are not comparable to the U.S. would ensure a level playing field for U.S. fishermen and provide an important tool for international shark conservation;

Whereas current application of the finning legislation to only “fishing vessels” has prevented enforcement action against chartered, transport vessels carrying shark fins without corresponding carcasses; and

Whereas legislation identical to the House bill has been introduced in the United States Senate and yet little time remains before adjournment of the current Congress;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Elasmobranch Society respectfully requests that the United States Senate promptly pass the Shark Conservation Act and send it to the President at the earliest opportunity.