Monday, February 25, 2013

Protecting sharks at CITES Conference

In March a UK delegation will travel to Thailand to attend the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

The UK team of experts reflects the breadth of the agenda. It underlines the importance the UK government places on CITES as a key way of delivering conservation and sustainable use measures.

There are a number of priority topics for the UK at CoP16, not least proposals to introduce trade controls under CITES for a number of vulnerable and endangered species of sharks and rays.

Sharks have been in our oceans for more than 400 million years but populations are in trouble globally. Loss of habitat and fishing to meet an increasing demand for shark fins, meat, and liver oil has driven numerous populations to the brink of extinction. With no international catch limits in place for sharks, many populations continue decline.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: ‘I welcome the strong marine focus of this CoP and the opportunities this brings for protecting vulnerable marine species. It is time to see positive movement on the listing of commercially important marine species’.

The EU will be taking a positive position on sharks, putting forward a listing proposal for Porbeagle Shark and co-sponsoring a listing proposal for Hammerhead Sharks. Also on the table at CoP16 are proposals to list Oceanic Whitetip Shark and Manta Ray both of which the UK is strongly supportive of.

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments that came into force in 1975. The UK makes up one of 177 countries Party to the agreement. Under this agreement the import, export and use for commercial gain of certain species is strictly controlled and requires a CITES permit.

Porbeagles are closely related to the great white shark and are found in cold-temperate waters of the north Atlantic and southern hemisphere. Porbeagle meat is considered high quality and their fins are in demand in the shark fin trade. The scalloped, great, and smooth hammerhead sharks are found along coastlines in warm, temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. An estimated 1.3 million to 2.7 million scalloped and smooth hammerheads are killed annually for the shark fin trade.

Found in tropical and temperate seas, the oceanic whitetip is one of the most widespread shark species. It is also one of the most threatened with an estimated 250,000 to 1.3 million killed globally per year for the shark fin trade. The Oceanic and Reef manta ray are found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. More than 4,000 individuals are traded annually in Asia where their gill plates are used as ingredients in purported health tonics.

Source: Shark Trust

Image courtesy of steve.garner32 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)