(BANGKOK, THAILAND) – World leaders meeting in Bangkok, Thailand today overcame stiff opposition from major commercial fishing nations and their supporters to approve much-needed controls on international trade in various shark species during the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Subject to confirmation in Plenary this week, these shark species will be listed on Appendix II of the Treaty, thus providing trade regulations vital to their survival. CITES Parties placed porbeagles, three species of hammerhead sharks, and oceanic whitetip sharks on Appendix II of the Convention and uplisted freshwater sawfish from Appendix II to Appendix I.
Rebecca Regnery, Chair of the SSN Shark Working Group and Deputy Director of Wildlife with Humane Society International noted: “Tens of millions of sharks are fished each year, mainly for meat and fins. It is quite clear that such massive commercial pressure is unsustainable and may be driving down populations of some species. The decisions made today, which we hope will be ratified in Plenary later this week, would ensure that the international trade in whitetip, porbeagle, and three species of hammerhead sharks is more rigorously monitored. This is the only way to truly give some of the most heavily traded species a respite from the commercial onslaught.”
Each shark species discussed at the Bangkok CITES meeting faces commercial pressure for their flesh and are vulnerable due to over-exploitation from over-fishing and illegal fishing. Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network said: “ Shark fisheries all-too-often employ the cruel and wasteful practices known as ‘finning’ and ‘gilling’, which involves cutting off the most valuable parts of the species and throwing the mutilated, wounded, and defenseless animal back in to the ocean. CITES Parties cannot be perceived to condone this relentlessly cruel aspect of commercial shark fisheries.”
The illegal and unreported poaching of sharks for the fin trade is believed to be a serious threat. Fishing grounds of coastal States have been plundered to feed the international demand for shark fins. An Appendix II listing means that exports can only occur if the exporting country makes a scientifically-based non-detriment finding, indicating that the export will not negatively affect the survival of the species.
Sharks are apex predator species and experts believe that major reductions in their populations may have a negative effect on the health of other marine species and the ocean ecosystem. Most shark species are slow to recover from over-exploitation due to late maturation, long gestation periods and small litter sizes.
Ms. Regnery concluded: “CITES has today declared its authority on regulating the commercial trade in these key marine species that would otherwise face a bleak future. As the delegate from Senegal so eloquently put it, when many in Africa and elsewhere go hungry, to throw the finned bodies of sharks overboard is a terrible waste. Putting sharks on Appendix II of the Convention now is the right move before we reach a crisis and have to resort to a commercial trade ban under Appendix I.”