Environmental and Humane Groups Praise Costa Rica for Groundbreaking Proposal on the International Protection of Hammerhead Sharks
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (April 25, 2012)—Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife, and Teyeliz, A.C. commended Costa Rica for taking the lead in the international protection of oceanic wildlife by listing the Sphyrna lewini species of hammerhead sharks within the Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
The high commercial value of the shark’s fins combined with the low value of hammerhead shark meat has led to widespread finning of the species, a wasteful and often illegal practice in which the fins are severed only to have the shark thrown back into the ocean to die a slow, painful death. Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, a dish that is popular in many Asian countries and communities.
“A CITES Appendix III listing is an invaluable tool in the continued fight to preserve hammerhead shark populations,” stated Cynthia Dent, regional director of Humane Society International-Latin America. “Humane Society International wishes to congratulate Costa Rica for being the first country to take this necessary step, showing leadership on shark conservation and monitoring efforts in the face of the increased threats to this and other species of sharks.”
“Costa Rica’s efforts to protect hammerheads reflect the growing worldwide awareness that countries and governments cannot stand by as shark populations continue to be decimated at such alarming rates,” says Alejandra Goyenechea, international counsel with Defenders of Wildlife. “Putting international protections in place is an important first step to ensuring the hammerhead shark's survival and we commend Costa Rica for their efforts and recognizing that extinction is forever.”
"Costa Rica is once again leading the way in the conservation of endangered species,” said Maria Elena Sánchez, president of Teyeliz, A.C. “We hope that many other countries follow suit so that the international trade of hammerhead shark products is regulated worldwide. This is a first step but it is a landmark step that will prove that international regulation of the trade can be achieved for the conservation of this shark species."
A previous proposal to include hammerhead sharks into Appendix II during the 2010 meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Doha, Qatar failed to obtain the necessary votes to approve the listing, leaving the S. lewini, S. mokarran and S. zygaena species of hammerhead sharks unprotected from international trade. An Appendix II listing requires the support of at least two-thirds of CITES member countries to be present and voting, and entails stricter regulations to the international trade of wildlife species to ensure its sustainability. An Appendix III listing can be done unilaterally by any CITES member country.
- Ever since entering into force, CITES has been the only international agreement that regulates international trade in wild species. The CITES treaty has been signed and ratified by 175 nations (Parties). Costa Rica has been a Party to CITES since the treaty’s inception in 1975.
- CITES Appendix III listings are done at the request of a Party that regulates trade in a determined species and requires the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation of said species. The international trade in specimens of Appendix III species is allowed with the appropriate permits or certificates.
- The implementation of CITES control measures for the regulation and monitoring of international trade is consistent with the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
- The scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) is a coastal and semioceanic shark found in warm temperate and tropical seas. S. lewini is a wide-ranging species, found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The species is categorized as Endangered in the IUCN Red List (2009).
- Individuals of S. lewini tend to aggregate, and aggregations are targeted by fisheries, making the species highly vulnerable to over-fishing. Catches are often unreported, particularly when only the fins are taken and the rest of the shark is discarded at sea. When reported, catches of S. lewini are often grouped with other hammerhead sharks as “Sphyrna spp.”
- Hammerhead shark fins are among the most valuable fins in Asian markets. Hammerheads also suffer from high mortality rates when caught unintentionally by vessels targeting other species of fish such as tuna and swordfish.