Three endangered shark species won CITES protection after conservationists voted to regulate the trade of threatened shark species. Their fins are used to make expensive delicacies in Asia.
CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna, met in Bangkok and adopted proposals that placed the oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, and porbeagle sharks on a list of species whose trade internationally is closely controlled.
All three proposals received more than 90 votes for. Sharks, like manta rays, are valuable to nations who have dive tourism industries. The Bahamas, Fiji, and the Maldives all have major benefits for keeping the endangered sharks alive. Eleven nations proposed regulating the trade of the endangered sharks.
Sonja Fordham, the founder of U.S.-based Shark Advocates International, released a statement praising the votes. Fordham stated, “These highly traded, threatened shark species urgently need protection from the unsustainable trade that jeopardizes populations, ecosystems, livelihoods, and ecotourism.”
The CITES protection for the shark species’ means that those fishing for the endangered fish will have to acquire strictly controlled permits to export their fins. The vote is considered a landmark because several previous petitions to protect marine species have failed, largely because of opposition from China and Japan.
Sharks are vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow development and the fact that they have few offspring. About one million oceanic whitetips were culled every year in a move that resulted in the population diminishing by 93 percent in just 15 years. But a delegate from one of the world’s top fin-exporting nations was not thrilled by the measures’ passing.
She stated of the protection, “Dealing with fisheries is always hard due the huge economic and political interests involved.” She added that it is custom in China to have shark fin soup at weddings. The delegate continued, “It would be like telling the French not to have champagne at their wedding.”
While previous CITES meetings saw similar propositions fail, new support from Latin American and west African countries helped win the day. Promises of cash from the European Union to help change fishing practices also helped. The vote is not set in stone, however. The decisions may be reopened for debate at the final plenary session of the summit. If the measures are not overturned, they will be implemented in 18 months.
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