Report of the First meeting of the WECAFC/OSPESCA/CRFM/CITES/CFMC working group on shark conservation and management, Bridgetown, Barbados, 17-19 October 2017

The First meeting of the WECAFC/OSPESCA/CRFM/CITES/CFMC working group on shark conservation and management was held in Barbados on 17-19 October 2017. The meeting brought together more than 30 shark fisheries experts, conservationists, marine biologists and fisheries officers from 15 WECAFC members, regional fisheries bodies, fisheries technical advisory institutions, non-governmental organizations, and other relevant stakeholders. The experts at the meeting recognized the decline in various shark and ray stocks in the Caribbean region, as well as the need to conserve the threatened species among them. The joint Working Group stressed the importance of harmonizing conservation and management measures with various international and regional conventions for the protection of these often-migratory species, as well as with measures by regional fisheries management bodies in the Atlantic. The fisheries experts recommended amongst others that the countries in the region should prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea and require that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached through the point of first landing of the sharks. Moreover, the experts recommended the prohibition of targeted fisheries for iconic species such as whale sharks, sawfishes and manta rays. Incidental catches of these species should be promptly released unharmed and alive, to the extent possible. The experts worked on a regional shark stocks and fisheries status assessment and a Regional Plan of Action for the conservation and management of sharks and rays in the WECAFC area. This RPOA-Sharks will incorporate regional collaboration on shark research, data collection and sharing, capacity building, harmonized management and conservation measures, enforcement and monitoring, and public awareness.

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