Ocean News

Sharks Denied CITES Protections

30th March 2010

Proposals to limit trading of sharks rejected at global conference

On the last day at the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, delegates voted narrowly to reverse a previous Committee decision to monitor and regulate trade in the porbeagle shark and confirmed rejections of similar proposals for the hammerhead, spiny dogfish and oceanic whitetip shark.

“Many of the shark species considered for protection have declined by up to 99 percent in some areas,” said Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) Chief Scientist Dr Rupert Ormond. Hammerhead and oceanic whitetips sharks are killed primarily to satisfy Chinese demand for their fins while porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks are sought after for their meat.

“Yesterday’s backsliding on porbeagle protection by CITES Parties is deeply regrettable as are their previous decisions to reject trade safeguards for similarly threatened species of sharks,” said Heike Zidowitz, head of the Shark Alliance delegation. “These failures leave some of the ocean’s most vulnerable and heavily traded species at great risk from unregulated, international trade.”

All the CITES proposals for trade restrictions on commercially valuable marine life were rejected, including ones on bluefin tuna, polar bear, and numerous coral species and eight species of endangered sharks. Countries opposed to the listing of marine species, stated that regional fisheries organizations (RFO) should manage trade, but environmentalists argued that RFOs have never imposed harvest limits on sharks or corals, and have routinely ignored scientific recommendations when setting quotas.

"CITES was always a place where countries came together and based on science, restricted trade for the sake of conservation," said Susan Lieberman, who directs international policy for the Pew Environment Group and has attended the conference since 1989. "This time, they restricted conservation for the sake of trade."

New protections were provided for species such as the Iranian salamander and Latin American tree frogs, and the world’s largest conservation conference did reject an attempt to loosen trade restrictions on African elephants. Despite the setbacks SOSF will continue to promote shark conservation and education, and urges people learn more about the issues in order to better protect our oceans.