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22 October 2009 - Australia fails to commit to shark conservation      

Australia fails to commit to shark conservation

22 October 2009                                                              
                                                                     

HSI today expressed its severe disappointment at the Australian Government’s lack of commitment to shark conservation in advance of next year’s 15th Conference of Parties of CITES – the international body tasked with ensuring that the international trade of plants and animals does not threaten their survival.

Since the last meeting of the convention two years ago, HSI has been advocating for a number of shark species to be added to the CITES Appendices at the March 2010 meeting to control unregulated trade, especially in their fins. The world’s shark populations are in a similar state to the whale populations 20 years ago, when action was taken to protect whales. Despite numerous discussions with the Government, and their acknowledgement of the state of world’s shark populations, they have missed their opportunity to show leadership on international shark conservation.

“Australia has traditionally played a leading role seeking protection for sharks at CITES, in the past achieving a listing for the great white shark, but now we are concerned they are dropping the ball,” said Alexia Wellbelove, Program Officer at HSI. “Despite the Minister’s claims, and Labor Party policy to promote the conservation of key species such as sharks in Australian waters and across the world, it appears the Government is all talk, showing little interest in taking concrete action to protect sharks.”

In contrast to Australia’s lack of action, Palau, an island nation in the Pacific, together with the United States and European Union are demonstrating leadership on shark conservation, by proposing protection for eight species of shark, including the oceanic whitetip shark and the scalloped hammerhead shark.

The Government has also missed an opportunity to rectify the mistakes of the previous administration at the last CITES meeting, where Australia was instrumental in ensuring freshwater sawfish were not given sufficient protection, in contrast with the rest of the sawfish family, to the horror of international audiences. A proposal to uplist the freshwater sawfish to Appendix I would have done much to improve Australia’s international standing at CITES. This is a real missed opportunity for Australia, which it will have to wait another two years to rectify.

While missing an opportunity for sharks at CITES, due to industry pressure Minister Garrett has also postponed protection for three species of migratory sharks under Australian domestic law as is required after they were recently listed on the UN Convention for Migratory Species.

“Unless we take action now many of the world’s shark species will disappear, with untold effects on the world’s ocean ecosystems,” said Alexia Wellbelove of HSI. “We are therefore calling on the Australian Government to express immediate support for the shark proposals from Palau, the US and the EU to help build momentum for successful listings and ultimately for shark conservation internationally.”

The 15th Conference of Parties of CITES (The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) will be held in Doha, Qatar from 13 – 25 March 2010. The deadline for countries to nominate species for CITES protection at the March conference passed last week.





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