Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Arab Countries Hailed as Shark Saviours at CITES

Countries in the Middle East were hailed as leaders in the fight to save sharks at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) happening this week in Bangkok, Thailand.

"People and governments from Arab countries have woken up to the slaughter of sharks in their waters and they will not support it any longer," said Elsayed Mohamed, Middle East Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "If we are to protect our biodiversity it starts with protecting the species most at risk - and that means these sharks. We need Arab countries to stand strong against lobbying from countries who don't want to regulate the trade in shark products in tomorrow's plenary vote."

Every three years the 177 CITES countries come together to decide which species of animals need more or less protection. This year there has been a very strong presence from Arab countries.

“We do want to appreciate the support these proposals for sharks have gotten in the very wide range of countries around the world ," said Liz Taylor of the Colombian delegation speaking of support from Arab and West African countries. Colombia is one of the countries who submitted the proposal for greater shark protection.

The Oceanic Whitetips sharks are among the most sought after sharks on the markets and especially also on the black markets. This market demand puts them in highest risks with devastating effect on the local shark populations and the marine ecosystem here. That is why we need international regulations like CITES. The Porbeagle, unlike the other sharks listed, are sought primarily for their meat with the fins considered a useful by-product.

The scalloped hammerhead shark is largely targeted for its fin which means that once caught its fin is often cruelly cut off before it is thrown back into the sea dead or alive. The fin is then used to make soup. Smooth and great hammerhead shark fins are very similar to those of the scalloped hammerhead which means that they are at risk of being targeted accidentally for their fins.

“Jordan is always concerned with species conservation around the globe and we try to do our best to judge based on the scientific data and on the information that is scientifically sound," said Mahdi Quatramiz, Head of the CITES Management Authority in Jordan. "We need the NGOs and concerned parties to start to think of a way of bringing concerned parties together, to do capacity building and awareness programs (to save sharks). Congratulations and we hope it goes through plenary on Thursday."

“These sharks are worth far more alive than dead to local communities. Sharks are charismatic animals that are beloved by divers and therefore can play an important role in attracting more tourists and tourist revenue for coastal communities,” said Elsayed. "IFAW has worked very hard to raise awareness of this by sponsoring two shark Conservation Workshops in UAE and Yemen and organizing a Regional Preparatory Meeting for the CITES CoP 16 in Jordan."

A successful vote for sharks in tomorrow's plenary vote at CITES would better regulate the international trade in shark fins. Any domestic use of sharks is unaffected and the international trade is still allowed if the shark population is healthy.

Source: IFAW

Image courtesy of Erik Charlton/Flickr Creative Commons