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Poll: Spaniards Unwittingly Eat Shark Meat; 'Accurate Labeling Is Essential'

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MADRID, Spain -- A new TNS Demoscopia poll, commissioned by the Shark Alliance, has revealed that people in Spain are unwittingly eating shark meat. Although 96% of those polled said that they did not eat shark, 76.4% were not aware that “cazón” and “marrajo” come from sharks and nearly 33% said that they consumed these products. The results were released in conjunction with a new report from SUBMON, titled Spain: A driving force in shark fishing around the world, that documents serious fishery problems including mislabelling sharks at market.

In a similar poll undertaken by TNS last year, 95% of the Spanish people questioned supported measures to protect endangered shark species and limits on shark catches to keep fisheries sustainable.

“Sharks are vulnerable animals at serious risk and the people of Spain do not want to be part of eating them into oblivion,” said Sandrine Polti, Policy Advisor for the Shark Alliance, a coalition of more than 70 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving EU fishing policies.

“Spanish fishermen catch more sharks than those from any other European country while the Spanish government is increasingly out of touch with its citizens’ views on protecting shark populations,” Polti continued.

A report published today by Shark Alliance member SUBMON found that the mislabelling and renaming of shark products within Spain is widespread and likely responsible for the discrepancy between people expressing the desire to abstain from shark meat and yet consuming it under other guises.

Àlex Bartolí, Shark Project Manager for SUBMON and author of the report said, “Accurate labelling is essential to allow people to make informed choices about seafood. It is also crucial if we are to understand the true scale of shark catches, marketing and consumption in order to craft measures for reversing population decline and ensuring sustainable fisheries.”

Aside from EU-wide rules, Spain has practically no management and control measures for its vast shark fisheries and fails to protect domestically any species of shark, even those threatened with extinction.

The new EU Plan of Action for Sharks, released by the European Commission in February 2009, provides a roadmap for Spain to curb the excesses of its shark fishing fleet and, in doing so, move more in step with the wishes of its own population which supports protecting sharks from over-exploitation.

Specifically, among other things, the authors of the report are urging Spain to:

  • Limit shark catches to scientifically advised and/or precautionary levels;
  • Eliminate excess fleet capacity;
  • Prevent take of particularly vulnerable or endangered shark species;
  • Ensure accurate reporting and traceability of shark trade by species and product; and
  • Educate fishermen and sellers as to shark species identification and restrictions.

For more than a decade, Spain has been one of the top five world powers with respect to the fishing and marketing of sharks. Spain’s fishing fleets, employing various gears, span the globe, taking sharks as targeted and incidental catch. Approximately 50% of the EU catch of “sharks” (all cartilaginous fishes: sharks, rays and chimaeras) is taken by Spain.

Bartolí added: “As one of the key drivers behind the commercialization of sharks, Spain has an urgent responsibility to become a leader in ending shark overfishing and rebuilding depleted populations.”

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