By Pita Ligaiula in Da Nang, Vietnam

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is hopeful the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC 19), meeting this week will take a decision to prohibit the use of wire leaders and shark lines.

The U.S and Canada are seeking a ban in the Pacific on the two fishing devices that have proven devastatingly effective at catching huge numbers of sharks.

Bubba Cook, WWF Pacific Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager, told journalists in Da Nang, banning wire leaders and shark lines would reduce fishing mortality of oceanic whitetips and silky sharks.

“This meeting we are focussed on few issues that we think are priorities, one of them is the passage of harvest strategy and management procedure for the skipjack tuna stock.

“We think it’s an important conservation management measures to address the sustainability of skipjack tuna in the Pacific and it serves as a beacon for the other fisheries to follow and implement similar measures.

“The other issue is the shark conservation measure before the Commission to look at prohibition of both shark line and wire leader which is the most effective way to address a heavily depleted oceanic whitetip shark stock and heavily depleted silky shark,” Cook told journalists.

Bubba said the issue was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting and WWF supports the prohibition use of wire leaders and shark lines.

“Currently the conservation measure is before the Commission for consideration and is still under negotiation from a number of countries.

“The main portion of that conservation management measure is the prohibition of shark lines and wire leaders. The science is very clear that the prohibition of shark line and wire leader would significantly benefit the oceanic whitetip shark stock and so we are fully supportive of moving forward with that measure to prohibit both.

“The other part is the requirement to provide information and to provide support cutting of trailing gear that is attached to the longline to bring it in rather than cut the branch line near the main line which leaves a long string of line that is detrimental to the shark, it causes mortality in sharks. To cut that line that is close as possible to the hook and thereby reducing or eliminating the impact of the trailing gear on sharks,” he said.

Cook said there is some opposition from a number of delegations to both those provisions, the wire leader prohibition as well as trailing gear provision.

“There is some negotiation still occurring and we are hopeful that they can come to an agreement that includes both provisions. We are not terribly optimistic, but we want to be positive as we can,” said Cook.

Decades of overfishing has been devastating to many shark populations.