The Mediterranean: the most dangerous place for sharks
by Sonja Fordham
July 21, 2008
Welcome to Discovery Channel's Shark Week Conservation Blog! I'm Sonja Fordham, director of the Shark Conservation Program for Ocean Conservancy (www.oceanconservancy.org), and for the next two weeks, I'll be posting updates and information on shark conservation and related science. I hope you'll join in by posting your questions and opinions on shark conservation.
I thought it was fitting to start this blog series during my visit to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has recently been dubbed "the most dangerous place in the world ... if you're a shark." Hope lies in encouraging Malta, already a leader in regional shark conservation, to seize opportunities to promote greater protection for the region's sharks.
Last year, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) reported that 42 percent of the sharks and rays in the Mediterranean are threatened with extinction (www.iucn.org). This percentage is higher than those for all other regions assessed around the world.
Last month, the Lenfest Ocean Program (www.lenfestocean.org) released scientists’ findings that several Mediterranean sharks (makos, hammerheads, porbeagles, threshers and blue sharks) have declined by 97 to 99 percent. There are no catch limits in the Mediterranean for these commercially valuable sharks.
In fact, Malta is the only EU country on the Mediterranean to provide any protection for Mediterranean sharks (great white and basking sharks), thanks in large part to efforts of the “Sharkman of Malta” (www.sharkmans-world.com).
The situation for Mediterranean sharks is clearly awful, but there has never been greater opportunity for change. Mediterranean countries, particularly members of the European Union, have tools to improve the situation. For starters, the EU is now developing a Plan of Action for Sharks that can set the stage for widespread improvements in EU shark policies. There are also a variety of regional agreements that can spark conservation actions for sharks, if prompted by countries like Malta.
Check out www.sharkalliance.org to learn more about how you can help save Mediterranean sharks, and tune in again over the next two weeks for news on shark conservation in other regions of the world.