Endangered species

CITES CoP19: Groundbreaking protection for sharks achieved

Endangered species

CITES CoP19: Groundbreaking protection for sharks achieved

Leaders at CITES CoP19 vote in favour of largest shark protection measure in CITES history.

The 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has brought forward a victory for shark conservation by giving 54 shark species increased protection.

At the conference in Panama City, governments that attended CoP19 voted in favour of listing all 54 species of the requiem shark family and hammerhead sharks on CITES Appendix II, as well as one bonnethead, a small hammerhead species, and five look-alike sharks.

Requiem sharks are a shark family that includes migratory, live-bearing sharks such as blue sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks, all species that are heavily targeted for their fins. Requiem sharks account for over 50% of the shark fin trade, while around 70% of this shark family are already threatened with extinction.

CITES Appendix II lists species that might become threatened with extinction if trade isn’t closely controlled. It grants included species greater protection at an international level.

Luke Warwick, Director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Shark and Ray Conservation, commented on the news to Forbes: “These two families constitute well over half of the shark fins traded annually in a half-billion dollar trade. Now no trade will be possible unless it is sustainable – giving these species a chance to recover, and the strength of CITES listings will drive stronger protections for sharks and rays around the world. The proposals adopted today for requiem and hammerhead sharks, championed by the Government of Panama, will forever change how the world’s ocean predators are managed and protected.”

The inclusion of 19 critically endangered and endangered shark species, as well as 35 more species on Appendix II means that customs and enforcement officials will have an easier task in ensuring legal and sustainable trade is taking place. For example, from now on, any shipment of shark products of species listed on CITES Appendix II will require a special permit that shows legal and sustainability requirements are being met.

Currently, most shark fisheries have little to no management in place. Shawn Heinrichs, founder of Only.One, said: “This is THE biggest win in the history of marine species, and in particular, for sharks at CITES. Now it’s time to implement it.”

CoP19 will run until 25 November and further shark and ray species are yet to be voted on. All proposals still need to be confirmed by the plenary at the end of the conference. The countries of Canada and Japan are currently opposing the implementation of the shark protection measures.
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