Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Backshall takes swim with sharks

Shark Trust patron and wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall swimming with sharks

Children's wildlife presenter Steve Backshall today came face-to-face with two 2.7 metre long Sand tiger sharks in a bid to raise awareness about overfishing.

He dived into London Aquarium's one million litre tank containing 21 sharks, including 10 Blacktip reef sharks, a fish that has attacked people without provocation, and the tiger sharks which are closely related to Great whites.

Also in the water were two Nurse sharks and a Bowmouth guitarfish with its distinctive ridged head.

He was diving to help the Shark Trust highlight how e ach year millions of sharks are caught by European vessels, mainly in the Atlantic. Spain, Portugal and France are among the world's top 20 shark fishers, the trust said.

In total the EU is responsible for around 40% of the reported catches across the globe, although there are likely to be more unreported catches. In 2012 over 280,000 tons of sharks were caught and reported, it added.

Backshall, who met his first shark in Malaysia, when he was 12, said: "The important thing is the fact that, at the moment, sharks can be taken with no limit to their catches. We don't think that's acceptable for any other commercial fish so why should it be acceptable for sharks?

"There are 13 million blue sharks taken out of the Atlantic over 10 years. It is entirely possible that sharks like that could go extinct in my lifetime."

He stressed the damage done by longline fishing. A longline boat will have around 3,000 hooks on 200 lines stretching up to 60 miles. They try to catch tuna and swordfish but sharks can make up over 80% of their catch.

Ali Hood, director of conservation at the Shark Trust, said: "Sharks will be caught in commercial fisheries, to a degree this is inevitable, but we can work to manage what is caught in a sustainable manner - sustainable for both shark populations and the associated coastal communities."

No Limits? No Future is a campaign run by the Shark Trust encouraging national governments, the European Commission and high seas regulators to "implement and enforce science-based catch limits at the earliest opportunity".

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