Spanish ‘wall of death’ killing UK sharks

Huge nets used by Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleets are creating a 'wall of death' for Britain's shark population, UK experts have warned. But a Spanish expert warns the problem may be about a lack of regulation of shark fishing.

Blue and Mako sharks, the main types of sharks found in Britain are being killed on their routes across the Atlantic by 60-mile (96 kilometre) fishing lines armed with hooks used by Iberian fishing fleets.

As many as three to four million sharks are being killed annually by the longline fishing, the UK's Sunday Times reported recently.

Tourists and shark anglers in Cornwall in the UK's west used to catch thousands of sharks annually, and now only catch hundreds.

"We found that the sharks are congregating where warm and cool currents meet. These are highly productive areas that attract fish – and that attracts sharks too," David Sims, professor of marine ecology at the MBA, told the Sunday Times.

Fishing vessels also find themselves in these waters, where overfishing poses a problem to vulnerable species of fish.

At the rate in which these vessels fish, fish populations do not have enough time to breed, Sims said.

"The basic problem is not really one of Spanish and Portuguese fleets 'stealing' sharks from the UK: it's that the European Union still doesn't have a management plan for sharks," Alex Bartoli of the Shark Alliance told The Local.  

"Fleets fish for tuna and swordfish in these areas and sharks are a secondary capture. But there are no limits on the number of sharks captured or on the size of the fish that can be taken," he explained  

The Shark Alliance, a group of non-governmental organizations, has repeatedly called for closer regulation of shark fishing in the EU in a bid to protect the animals.

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Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches

The lockdown and Storm Gloria have facilitated the return of marine species to seawaters which were previously dominated by human activities.

Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches
Photos: Wikimedia

Just days after Spain allowed its 46 million inhabitants to head to the country’s beaches for the first time in more than two months, a number of shark encounters have showcased how quickly the animal kingdom can regain territory. 

There have been more than 15 sightings of basking sharks (the second largest shark in the world) along Spain’s Mediterranean coast so far this spring.

Spain’s Civil Guard captured images of one of these enormous creatures, which measure up to eight metres in length but are not considered a threat to humans.

On the Canary island of Tenerife, another marine species – the angel shark or monkfish (see below)– has been swimming in shallow waters where up until recently only beachgoers would be found.

There have been four attacks in just three days, with experts warning the public they shouldn’t interact with the creatures as they bite when they feel threatened.

“The drop in maritime traffic and fishing activities as a result of the confinement measures have a lot to do with the increase in shark sightings, ” Claudio Barría, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona, told Telecinco.

“Some studies indicate that Storm Gloria (a storm which brought gail-force winds and heavy rainfall to Spain in January) could have increased the amount of plankton in the Mediterranean, attracting more sharks that feed off it”.