Thursday, March 14, 2013

White Smoke Billows for Sharks at CITES - EU Leadership crucial in support for threatened sharks

In a dramatic Plenary session, trade restrictions were adopted today for five species of sharks and two manta ray. Native to Europe, and highly valued for its meat, the proposal to list Porbeagle finally secured the support required from the Plenary session of the 16th Conference of Parties (CoP) to CITES. In addition, Freshwater Sawfish was finally uplisted from Appendix II to the stricter Appendix I, curtailing further international trade. Crucially, attempts to reopen the debate on the shark proposals were defeated.

“This is a tremendous result, reflecting years of campaigning for trade controls for these high-value species”, said Ali Hood Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “Now Parties face the challenge of implementation, and we urge the EU to reach out and assist less developed nations with capacity building and practical implementation,”

Ireland, the current EU Presidency, effectively led EU Member States and ensured all 27 countries and Croatia cast their votes in support. Sponsoring the Porbeagle, the EU also co-sponsored the Hammerhead proposal. “Making progress on the marine area was the key priority for the EU at this CoP. We are delighted with the progress that has been made here today,” said Feargal Ó Coigligh Head of the Irish Delegation.

UK Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said “I am extremely pleased to see that the Porbeagle, three Hammerheads, the Oceanic Whitetip sharks and the Manta rays have all received greater protection under CITES. The UK government has been leading calls for greater protection of sharks and I feel very strongly that trade in these vulnerable species must be regulated to ensure it is sustainable and so I welcome the positive step that CITES has taken”.

“Germany has been determined to secure a result for Porbeagle, having persistently presented this species for the last three CoPs,” said Elsa Nickel Head of the German CITES delegation. “It took forty years for this breakthrough, to have commercially exploited shark species listed under CITES.”

The Shark Trust and the German Elasmobranch Society worked collaboratively at CITES as part of a wider coalition* engaging with government delegations and the NGO community.

Heike Zidowitz, Chair of the German Elasmobranch Society commented: “We congratulate all the proponent countries but stress that further management is required for these and many other shark and ray species. We urge the EU to use their influence through the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to complement CITES listings through the adoption of effective catch limits.”

CITES measures will not come into force immediately but a grace period of 18 months has been proposed prior to implementation to enable Parties to establish the necessary infrastructure.

Image courtesy of Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch