Ankara: Delegates at an international conservation meeting have agreed on a measure mandating that silky sharks accidentally caught in fishing gear be released back into the sea alive, marine advocacy groups said.
But the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) ending a weeklong meeting in Istanbul failed to reach consensus on other threatened shark species, the groups said on Saturday.

Conservationists also said more could have been done to save swordfish from decline in the Mediterranean while the World Wildlife Fund said steps adopted to preserve bluefin tuna remained insufficient.

While establishing protections for the silky sharks, ICCAT which manages tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as species, like sharks, that have traditionally been accidental catches for tuna fishermen made an exception for coastal developing countries, where the predators can continue to be caught for local consumption of their meat and not for the trade of their fins.

The sharks, named after the silk-like smooth texture of their skins, are among shark species most vulnerable to decline, threatened by the international trade in shark fins due to an increasing demand mainly in Asia for shark fin soup.

Marine advocacy groups, including Oceana and The Pew Environment Group, welcomed the measure saying it would help overturn the silky sharks' decline, though they also said they
had hoped for more.

"Cutting the nets to free sharks when they are caught, will give a large number of them a real chance to survive,"

Susan Lieberman, director of international Policy at the Pew Environment Group, told The Associated Press by telephone.

"The measure is an important step."
The group estimates that up to 1.5 million silky sharks are traded annually for their fins, and that up to 40 per cent can survive if they are returned to the sea alive.