March 14, 2011 Featured Article Read More →

Tope (Prohibition of Fishing) confirmed after review

In 2008 measures were introduced to protect tope, a vulnerable European continental-shelf and coastal shark species.  Tope do not mature until they are around 12 years old and then produce a relatively low number of pups compared with other marine species (20 every 2-3 years), making them very vulnerable to fishing pressure.

Following reports of plans for a commercial tope fishing operation, Defra consulted on precautionary conservation measures. The majority of responses supported the prevention of directed fisheries or pointed out that tope were a low value but inevitable by-catch in commercial fisheries for other species.

Defra therefore decided to lay a Statutory Instrument prohibiting fishing for tope other than by rod and line: the  Tope (Prohibition of Fishing) Order 2008 (SI Number 2008/691).

This SI sets a 45kg per day tope by-catch limit in commercial fisheries for other species.  Tope landed by commercial vessels must have their head and fins still attached.  Rod and line anglers fishing from boats are not allowed to land their catches ashore alive or dead.  In this way both commercial and recreational fishermen share responsibility for the conservation of tope.

As a review of the SI was planned for 2010, Defra held an informal consultation with those consultees from the original consultation exercise to seek views on:

  • What effects the catch and release and by-catch provisions in the SI have had over the last two years.
  • Whether additional measures are required to achieve further conservation benefits for this species.

In summary, the consultation, along with fisheries statistics and enforcement evidence clearly indicate that the Tope Order has, and continues to be effective in its primary aim of protecting this vulnerable species from targeted commercial fisheries that could rapidly lead to overexploitation.

Additionally, responses, along with fisheries data indicate there has been a high level of compliance with the catch and release policy by the recreational angling sector, and the weight per day limit in commercial fisheries. The consultation responses indicated that there are ongoing concerns over the level of tope bycatch in commercial fisheries, although official statistics suggest that, while by-catch is an issue affecting tope, since the introduction of the SI there has been a gradual but steady decrease in the amount of tope landed.

Based on the consultation responses, fisheries statistics, scientific advice and enforcement evidence we don’t believe that there are any other issues seriously affecting the status of the tope stock in UK waters.

Posted in: Shark Bites
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