Ocean News

CITES CoP15 – SOSF joins call to protect 8 shark species

13th March 2010

Save Our Seas Foundation Chief Scientist, Dr Rupert Ormond will be attending the CITES 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP15) that will consider 4 proposals to protect 8 shark species. The conference takes place from 13 – 25 March 2010 in Doha, Qatar.

Four proposals to list shark species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have been offered for consideration. The proposals aim to add eight species – spiny dogfish, porbeagle, oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, dusky and sandbar sharks – to CITES Appendix II.

All eight of these shark species are:

  • Subject to persistent demand that drives targeted fisheries and retention of bycatch
  • Traded internationally in substantial quantities
  • Included in the lowest productivity category (intrinsic rate of population increase <0.14) under criteria developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for CITES listing of commercially exploited aquatic species
  • Inadequately managed by most countries, and
  • Not subject to fishing limits under any regional fisheries management organization (RFMO).

Listing these shark species under CITES Appendix II is:

  • Essential for ensuring that international trade is held to sustainable levels
  • Complementary to fisheries management efforts
  • Key to improving data on the nature and extent of fisheries and trade
  • Supported by the CITES Secretarial, TRAFFIC and IUCN, and
  • Consistent with the FAO International Plan of Action for Sharks

The shark proposals include solid justification that the species meet the CITES criteria for listing. The proponents have agreed to delay the effect of these listings by 18 months to enable Parties to resolve related technical and administrative issues.

Recommendation: Support all shark proposals (15,16, 17 & 18) at CITES CoP15.

Proposal 15: Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini)
IUCN Red List status: Endangered globally

Hammerhead shark fins are highly sought for use in the traditional Asian delicacy ‘shark fin soup’. Because their meat is generally considered unpalatable, hammerhead sharks too often fall victim to ‘finning’ (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea).

Scalloped hammerheads form large schools around seamounts and oceanic islands, making them particularly vulnerable to targeted ?sheries. Declines in scalloped hammerhead populations have been estimated at 83 percent from 1981 to 2005 in the Northwest Atlantic and 64 percent  from 1978 to 2003 off South Africa.

The great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), proposed for listing as a “look alike” species, is classi?ed as Globally Endangered, while the other look alike species – smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus) and dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) – are categorized as Globally Vulnerable.

Proposal 16: Oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus)
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered in the Northwest and Central Atlantic Ocean and Vulnerable Globally

Strong demand for fins is a driving force behind the depletion of oceanic whitetip sharks. Studies show that most oceanic whitetips taken as bycatch could survive if properly released. The high value of the species’ fins, however, creates an incentive to ‘fin’ captured animals. The large, rounded, white-tipped fins of this species are readily identifiable in the trade.

Estimates of oceanic whitetip population decline are as high 90 percent for the central Paci?c Ocean and 99 percent for the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing in other regions is likely to be unsustainable. Catches overall are thought to be seriously under-reported. There are no species-speci?c ?shing limits for oceanic whitetip sharks.

Proposal 17: Porbeagle (Lamna nasus)
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic, Near Threatened in the Southern Ocean, and Vulnerable Globally

Porbeagle meat is among the most prized of all shark meat and a highly traded product. The large fins of porbeagles are frequently found in the global shark fin market.

Unsustainable ?shing and collapse of North Atlantic porbeagles is well documented. A Canadian assessment showed a decline in Northwest Atlantic reproductive females of up to 88 percent from 1961 to 2005. Norwegian landings declined by 99 percent between 1936 and 2005. In the Southwest Paci?c, catch per unit effort decreased 50 to 90 percent over just ten years late last century. Declining trends are also found for other Southern hemisphere populations.

Only the EU and Croatia have speci?cally prohibited porbeagle ?shing entirely. A 2008 Resolution to hold a joint RFMO meeting focused on porbeagles has yet to be ful?lled.

Proposal 18: Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic, Endangered in the Nortwest Atlantic, the Northwest Pacific and Mediterranean, Least Concern in Australasia & Southern Africa, and Vulnerable in the Black Sea, Northeast Pacific, and Globally

International trade, to satisfy European demand for its highly valued meant, is driving spiny dogfish fisheries and resulting in depletion around the world. Its fins are also exported to Asia.

The spiny dog?sh is among the slowest growing sharks, with the lowest known intrinsic rate of population increase of any marine ?sh and longest known gestation of any vertebrate. Spiny dog?sh school by size and sex; ?sheries target schools of pregnant females.

Northeast Paci?c catch per unit effort data reveal a 95 percent decline in mature females from 1984 to 2003. Northwest Atlantic spawning stock biomass (SSB) fell by an estimated 80 percent from 1990 to 2005; following a recent uptick, SSB is predicted to decline signi?cantly again over the next seven years due to many years of poor recruitment. Northwest Paci?c spiny dog?sh catches dropped by over 99 percent in the last half of the 20th century while the Northeast Atlantic population declined by an estimated 93 percent from 1955 to 2005.

Download the CITES CoP15 Position Paper (March 2010)
Original post on the Shark Alliance website
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade. They are listed in the three CITES Appendices. The species are grouped in the Appendices according to how threatened they are by international trade. They include some whole groups, such as primates, cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), sea turtles, parrots, corals, cacti and orchids. But in some cases only a subspecies or geographically separate population of a species (for example the population of just one country) is listed.
Any type of wild plant or animal may be included in the list of species protected by CITES and the range of wildlife species included in the Appendices extends from leeches to lions and from pine trees to pitcher plants. While the more charismatic creatures, such as bears and whales, may be the better known examples of CITES species, the most numerous groups include many less popularized plants and animals, such as aloes, corals, mussels and frogs.