White Smoke Billows for Sharks at CITES

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.

Editors notes:

The Shark Trust was established in 1997, and is the UK registered charity which works to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. Our vision is a world where sharks thrive within a globally healthy marine ecosystem. The Trust is an effective and well respected advocate for sound shark management and protection and works through cross-sectoral collaboration and where possible works with governments, industry and other stakeholder groups to attain sustainable goals.

The German Elasmobranch Society (Deutsche Elasmobranchier-Gesellschaft, D.E.G.) was established in 1995 to link between the public and the science community concerned about the conservation of threatened sharks, skates and rays (elasmobranchs). The Society’s conservation approach is strictly science-based and it targets to deliver effective German, EU and international wildlife protection and fisheries management for these species through science, education, and advocacy.

*CITES coalition: The German Elasmobranch Society, Humane Society International, Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from Oceans 5, are working as a coalition to promote the proposals to list shark and ray species at the 16th Conference of Parties to CITES.

The fins of hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks are in great demand in Asia for use in shark fin soup while porbeagle sharks are prized primarily for their meat in Europe. Manta Ray gill rakers and shark fins are among the world’s most valuable fisheries resource.

For more information and species factsheets visit www.sharktrust.org and www.elasmo.de