SPANISH and Portuguese fishing fleets are wiping out Britain’s shark populations with a ‘wall of death’.
The two countries are killing up to four million sharks each year in the north Atlantic, mostly to satisfy the Far East’s demand for shark fin soup.
Scientists have discovered the use of 60 mile-long fishing lines, bristling with baited hooks to target British sharks.
The lines are laid across the routes taken by blue and mako sharks – the main targets – as they migrate in and out of British waters.
The discovery, made by researchers at the Plymouth-based Marine Biological Association (MBA), could explain why UK shark populations are plummeting.
David Sims, professor of marine ecology at the MBA, explained that the team compared the movements of sharks with the movements of the nearly 200 Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats.
“We found that the sharks are congregating where warm and cool currents meet. These are highly productive areas that attract fish – and that attracts sharks too,” said Sims.
“However, it also attracts fishing vessels and we found many longlines laid in exactly the places where sharks concentrate. It is a wall of death for sharks.”
What emerged is that fisherman are effectively following sharks around the ocean, laying the deadly longlines wherever they congregate.
The study plays a vital role in discovering the impact of unregulated commercial shark fishing, which currently wipes out 100 million sharks globally each year.
The life cycle of sharks makes them hugely vulnerable to overfishing and population collapse, as they reach maturity late and produce very few young.
Sims added: “These are awe-inspiring animals but it is open-season on sharks. We should hit the panic button right now rather than in 10 years’ time when it could be too late.”