shark

CITES COP 16: Shark Press Conference

by [earth] guest blogger

This morning, the European Union held a press conference to discuss the marine proposals to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES)–recommendations to list a number of shark species and manta rays under Appendix II.

What is CITES? The primary goal of CITES is to regulate international wildlife trade of species and to protect them against over-exploitation for the purposes of future aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational, and economic use. Currently there are 178 Parties to CITES.

CITES is implemented by 3 Appendices which each grant certain trade restrictions upon the species listed therein. That’s the cut and dry of it, but CITES touches on other things like sustainable use, species trade and conservation plans, and is interested in climate change, electronic permitting, and many other things.

An Appendix II listing for a species would mean that a permit from a scientific authority from the country of export is necessary before it can legally enter international trade. This includes live animals, parts of animals, seeds, wood, derivatives–skin, teeth, oil, meat, you get the picture.

The proposed shark species are the scalloped, great, and smooth hammerheads, ocean whitetips, and porbeagles. Scalloped hammerheads are overfished because their fins are used in soups. The other two types of hammerheads are look-alike species, and protecting them helps to protect the scalloped hammerheads. Porbeagle sharks are in decline because of a demand for their meat. Manta rays have bony plates which are used for medicine in some regions.

The press conference stressed the beneficial relationships between CITES, which deals with international trade, and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). RFMOs help regulate sustainable harvesting. They apply only to members of the organizations, and can be difficult to enforce. However, they work at a more local level than CITES and are an important part of conservation of threatened marine species.

One of the major arguments against these proposals is that parts (i.e. shark fins) cannot be identified to the species level. This does not seem to be true, as many graphic aids are available online, and numerous workshops are occuring here at the COP to assist with this identification.

More capacity building is definitely needed to address the marine issues affecting these species in their entirety, but a listing on Appendix II is a good place to start.

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