In a historic move, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) has banned the retention of Greenland sharks in international waters. The intergovernmental organization’s decision means Greenland sharks cannot be intentionally caught nor retained as bycatch. However, if countries prohibit the discarding of fish—as is the case in Iceland, Norway, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands—exceptions to the bycatch rule could apply.
“It was a long time coming, but not a long time in the life of a Greenland shark,” Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, who attended the recent NAFO meeting in Portugal, told Mongabay. “We were glad that it finally went through, and it’s the first for that kind of protection for NAFO.”
Greenland sharks are known to be the world’s longest-living vertebrate, with research suggesting some individuals could live upwards of 500 years. This long lifespan may be the result of a very slow metabolism, an adaptation to the deep, cold waters where it is found. The slow metabolism may explain the shark’s sluggish movement, slow growth, and slow aging—they are thought to reach sexual maturity only when they’re more than a century old. Removing mature Greenland sharks thus affects the species and the ecosystem for many decades—all the more reason to celebrate this new ban.
Read more here.
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