An international, shark-focused meeting of more than 50 nations, convened under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), concluded this week in Bonn with adoption of a global conservation plan for great white sharks, porbeagles, basking sharks, spiny dogfish, whale sharks, and two species of makos.
The plan aims to complement and promote the objectives of the 2010 CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the first intergovernmental treaty dedicated specifically to global shark conservation. To date, the MoU has 25 Signatories, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Australia, Senegal, and the United States.
“We congratulate the Signatories and CMS Secretariat on the adoption of a sound basis for conserving several threatened, highly migratory shark species,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “The success of the new conservation plan depends on immediate and concrete, follow-up actions to not only improve our understanding of sharks, but also to limit shark fishing, bycatch, and trade to sustainable levels.”
Through the Shark MoU and accompanying conservation plan, signatories are encouraged to cooperate in national and regional actions to:
- facilitate research, data collection, and monitoring of shark populations and fisheries;
- set fishing limits based on scientific advice and the precautionary approach;
- prevent “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea);
- impose area closures to protect critical habitats and key life stages of sharks;
- reach out to stakeholders and raise awareness of the sharks’ status and needs; and
- cooperate toward shark conservation through international fisheries and wildlife bodies.
“We are pleased by the widespread support expressed this week for strengthening shark finning bans and the specific text that encourages requirements for landing sharks with fins still naturally attached,” said Ania Budziak, Associate Director of Science and Policy at Project AWARE Foundation. “We note that the European Union is close to adopting this best practice for finning ban enforcement, and we are hopeful that the CMS endorsement will encourage Members of European Parliament to complete this critical task.”
On the final day of the meeting, the CMS Parties agreed to accept the Humane Society International and Humane Society Australia as the first non-governmental organizations to participate in the Shark MoU as official Signatories.
“The Humane Society is extremely proud to be the first non-governmental signatory to the landmark CMS Shark MoU and is eager to help promote our shared goals,” said Rebecca Regnery, Humane Society International. “To start, our organization and its partners outlined for governments several upcoming key opportunities to implement the CMS shark conservation plan and the importance of realizing them promptly.”
Humane Society International, Shark Advocates International, and Project AWARE collaborate with the German Elasmobranch Society on a variety of shark conservation projects around the world. The groups are collectively urging Signatories to promote:
- Endorsement this autumn from the European Parliament of a European Commission proposal to strengthen the EU finning ban by ending removal of shark fins at sea;
- Establishment this November of an international limit on shortfin mako catches through the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT);
- Prohibition this December on the intentional setting of purse seines on whale sharks through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission; and
- Adoption next March of Germany’s proposal to include the porbeagle shark under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“CITES holds great promise for advancing key sections of the CMS shark conservation plan, and is particularly vital for ensuring sustainable trade in CMS-listed porbeagle sharks,” explained Heike Zidowitz, Chair of the German Elasmobranch Society. “We are grateful to Germany for facilitating important discussions this week in Bonn, and for championing shark conservation through both of these global wildlife treaties.”
The Signatories also formed an advisory committee of shark scientists and a process for potentially adding more species of sharks (and closely related rays) to be covered by the CMS Shark MoU.