Glimmer of hope for Marine species
Humane Society International (HSI) representatives at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) today welcomed the inclusion of the first commercially valuable shark species in the CITES Appendices. The inclusion of the porbeagle shark in the CITES Appendices is the very first commercially valuable sharks added to CITES in the treaty’s more than thirty-year history.
“Inclusion in Appendix II of CITES is a valuable tool for helping to reverse the continued depletion of these vulnerable sharks,” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “It requires countries to collect and provide data on shark exports and provide non-detriment findings to ensure that they are not over-exploiting these species to meet the demand for international trade.”
Porbeagles are large sharks that live in cooler waters worldwide. They are caught for their meat and their fins, both of which fetch high prices on the international market. This demand has led to alarming declines in their populations. Between 1954 and 2007 there has been a 99 percent decline in the Danish fishery between and a 96 percent decline in the Norwegian fishery in the period between 1973 and 2007. In addition south-west Pacific populations have decreased by between 50 and 80% in 10 years.
Unfortunately, three other proposals considered at CITES to provide protection for the scalloped hammerhead, oceanic whitetip shark and the spiny dogfish shark failed to be adopted earlier in the day.
“It is clear that in the majority of cases for marine species, politics triumphs over science because all the species met the criteria for CITES listings” continued Alexia Wellbelove. “Unfortunately, parties to CITES have missed this opportunity to provide these vulnerable shark species with additional protection.”
Many opposing countries are suggesting that Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) should be responsible for management of shark species. HSI has never disputed this and instead believes that CITES can play a vital complementary role alongside CITES. While RFMOs should have responsibility for sustainable shark management, there is no designated RFMO that sets or regulates catches of oceanic sharks making the need for CITES all the more pressing.
“RFMOs have not fulfilled their responsibilities to regulate the catch of sharks internationally” continued Alexia Wellbelove. “Unless and until RFMOs can be shown to be effectively managing shark species we strongly believe that CITES has an important complementary role to play in regulating international trade in shark products.”
It is possible that these decisions may be reconsidered and reversed later this week as the meeting concludes. In the meantime, HSI will continue to urge countries to take urgent action to protect their shark species.