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Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the populations of (a) white, (b) hammerhead and (c) thresher sharks in each of the last 15 years; and what measures her Department is taking to protect shark populations. [98001]

The Department has made no assessment of populations of white, hammerhead or thresher sharks, as these species are rare in UK waters. I am concerned at the decrease in shark populations, and so have been working to protect sharks at national and international level. In particular I have pressed for early adoption of a strict measure based on the Commission's welcome proposal to restrict shark finning; I have also introduced measures to protect the basking shark under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and secured improved international protection for basking sharks through strengthened CITES listing.