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FASTFACTS:SharksoftheBalticSea

Distribution:

Contrarytopopularbelief,therearesharksintheBalticSea.

Thirtyonespeciesofsharksandcloselyrelatedskates,raysandchimaeras(collectivelyknownascartilaginous
fishes)havebeenrecordedinthisarea.

ThesespeciesarefoundprimarilyintheWesternBalticandthetransitionalareas(SkagerrakandKattegat).

SharkshavebeenreportedasfareastasFinlandslandIslandsintheArchipelagoSea.

ThemostcommonspeciesofsharkintheBalticarethespurdog(spinydogfish),thethornyskate,andthe
smallspottedcatshark.

Alsofoundareblueandporbeaglesharks,blackmouthdogfish,thornbackrays,andbluntnosesixgillsharks
andthecommonvarietiesofskate,stingrayandangelshark.

Eventheimmense,filterfeedingbaskingshark,whichcangrowupto10mlong,isfoundhere.

Therearesinglerecordsofthewiderangingoceanicwhitetipshark(SwedishGluumarsfjordin2004)andthe
smoothhammerhead(DanishKattegatin1937).

Catches:

In2006,419tons(t)ofsharks,raysandchimaeraswerereportedascatchfromtheBalticSea.

Ofthiscatch,177twastakenbySweden,158tbyNorway,81tbyDenmark,and3tbyGermany.

Inrecentyears,spurdogmadeup79%ofBalticcartilaginousfishlandings;catchesfromtheoverallNEAtlantic
spurdogpopulationhavedeclinedby90%sincethe1970s.

TheannualcatchofspurdogfromtheBalticinthelate1980sisroughlyequivalenttotheamountthatcould
belegallytakenfromallEUwatersinrecentyears(2,500t).

VesselsfromEstonia,Lithuania,GermanyandNorwaytakesignificantamountsofspinydogfish,rays,and
deepseasharksfromtheNorthAtlantic(outsidetheBaltic).

Startingin2001,theoncediscardedrabbitfishisbeingtakenfromBalticwatersbyvesselsfromDenmark.

Markets&Trade:

Sharksaresoughtprimarilyfortheirmeat(forfood),theirfins(usedintheAsiandelicacysharkfinsoup)and
liveroil(usedincosmetics,lubricantsandpharmaceuticals).

In2006,Germany,Denmark,Estonia,Finland,Lithuania,Latvia,Poland,SwedenandNorwayimported
1,847tofsharkproducts(mostlymeatfromspurdogandcatsharks)fromothercountries.

Denmarkreportsthehighestimportsofsharks(1,025tin2006)ofallBalticcountries.Germany(537t)and
Sweden(206t)follow,butGermanyappearstounderreporttotheEUdatabase.

OtherdatabasesrevealGermanyastheworldslargestimporteroffrozenspurdogmeatsincethelate1990s,
receivingonequarterofAmericanexportsandafifthofCanadian.

Safeguards:

AsisthecaseintherestoftheEU,thereareveryfewlimitsonthecatchofBalticsharksandrays.Numerous
national,regionalandinternationalconservationtoolsareunderutilised.

SwedenistheonlyBalticcountrytoadoptnationalrulestoprotectspeciesofsharksandrays.

TheEUhasbannedfinning(slicingoffasharksvaluablefinsandtossingthebodyoverboard)byprohibiting
theremovaloffinsatsea.Aderogation,however,allowsMemberStatestoissuespecialpermitsforonboard
finremovalunderlenient,poorlyenforcedrules.

LithuaniaandGermanyonceissuedthesepermits,buthavesincestopped.

SpurdogcatchesfromtheBalticwerenotlimiteduntil2007,unlimitedin2008,andreducedin2009.

EUporbeaglecatcheswerenotlimiteduntil2008.

Since2003,GermanyhasledabattletolistspurdogandporbeagleundertheConventiononInternational
TradeinEndangeredSpecies(CITES).TheirproposalswerevoteddownbyCITESPartiesin2007and2010.

Biology:

SpecializedorgansandprocessesallowsharksandraystoadapttoeverchangingsalinitylevelsoftheBaltic.

Processinglowsalinitywater,however,requiresmuchenergy,makingitimpossibleforsharksandraystolive
forextensiveperiodsinthefarnorthernandeasternpartsoftheBalticSea.

Forsimilarreasons,sharksandraysappeartoleavetheBaltictolayeggsandgivebirth.

Sharksandraysgenerallygrowslowly,maturelate,liveforalongtime,andhaveonlyafewyoungaftera
lengthygestationperiod.Thismakesthemparticularlyvulnerabletooverfishing.

Femalespurdogmatureasteenagersandgivebirthtoonlyafewpupsafteranearlytwoyearpregnancy.

Status:

Elevenof30Balticsharkandrayspecies(37%)arelistedbyIUCNasThreatenedwithextinction.

Eightoutofthe18Balticsharks(44%)areclassifiedasThreatenedwithextinction.

Thespurdog,porbeagle,commonskate,andangelsharkarecategorizedasCriticallyEndangered.

Hope:
TheBalticspurdogcatchlimithasbeenreducedby90%andisscheduledtobesetatzeroin2011.

TheporbeaglecatchlimitforalloftheNortheastEUhasbeenreducedtozero,inlinewithscientificadvice.

In2008,theCouncilagreedtoprohibitthepossessionofangelsharkandcommonskates.

TheEuropeanCommissions2009PlanofActionforSharkssetsthestageforsignificantimprovementsinEU
sharkpolicyincludingastrongerfinningban.