Government moves to safeguard sharks and rays
Sharks and rays in Bermuda’s waters are to get more protection – but some shark fishing will be allowed.
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, told the House of Assembly on Friday that all sharks except Galapagos sharks, six-gill sharks, gummy sharks and smooth dogfish will be protected in the island’s waters.
Galapagos sharks are called dusky sharks in Bermuda and smooth dogfish are also known as gummy sharks.
Mr Roban said: “Recreational fishermen will not be permitted to take sharks and commercial fishermen will be required to obtain a special licence to take the permitted sharks.
“These licences will have terms and conditions attached, such as catch limits.”
He added exemptions were allowed for “cultural reasons” and to allow for commercial fishing operations to continue at a “well-managed level”.
Mr Roban said that the details of catch limits would be announced later.
He added: “The Galapagos shark is listed as being of ‘least concern’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, while gummy and six-gill sharks are listed as ‘near threatened’.
“Species are considered threatened and in need of the strictest protections when IUCN lists them as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.”
Mr Roban said the Government also planned to add giant manta rays to protected species legislation after a mandatory public consultation period.
He added: “I can confirm that in Bermuda there is no fishing for this gentle and beautiful giant of the deep sea.
“Further, we should make sure there is not any in the future and so ensure its protection, while in our waters as a protected species under the Protected Species Act 2003.”
Mr Roban emphasised sharks were essential to the maintenance of a healthy marine environment.
He said that the decline in shark numbers around Bermuda had allowed the population of green turtles to increase, which has caused the “collapse” of seagrass beds.
Mr Roban added that the loss of seagrass beds affected fishing because young fish used them for shelter.
He said seagrass also improved water quality and reduced the impact of climate change.
Mr Roban added that at least 20 species of shark were found around the island, although some are only occasionally seen.
He warned the majority were considered endangered, vulnerable to extinction or close to being threatened with extinction.
Mr Roban said: “Due to research conducted in Bermuda, we know the most about Galapagos sharks, known locally as duskies, and tiger sharks.
“Some of our tiger sharks travel to the Bahamas in the winter before returning here again when the water warms up.
“Nurse sharks are found inshore and are one of the most docile sharks around – unfortunately, they are very rare these days.
“We also occasionally see bigeye thresher sharks and great and scalloped hammerheads close to shore. Lemon shark and reef shark have also been found in shallow water.”
Other species recorded in Bermuda’s waters include gulper shark, shortfin mako sharks, blue sharks, silky and oceanic white tips, whale sharks and great white sharks.
Mr Roban said: “Sharks in Bermuda have not been targeted on an industrial level by local commercial fisherman.
“We do have a relatively small-scale traditional shark fishery providing shark hash.
“Current legislation already affords these sharks some level of protection, such as a prohibition on finning of sharks at sea, the requirement for a licence to use fixed shark fishing lines and lines with more than five hooks.”
But Mr Roban insisted: “That said Bermuda can and needs to do more to protect these important species.”