THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, June 8, 2007 –/WORLD-WIRE/– Delegates attending the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today failed by a narrow margin to adopt landmark protections for two globally threatened shark species. The spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks would have been the first commercially valuable sharks added to CITES in the Treaty’s thirty year history. Although CITES protects more than 30,000 species from illegal and unsustainable trade, only three species of sharks have been included to date.
“Shark species worldwide are in a tailspin due to overfishing and poor management—and often no management at all,” said Carroll Muffett, Deputy Campaigns Director of Greenpeace USA, a member organization of the Species Survival Network (SSN). “CITES is one of the few tools available to bring the global trade in sharks under appropriate control, and stop the rapid slide toward extinction we’re seeing today. Refusing CITES protection for two shark species among those in greatest need of urgent help is a painfully ironic way to celebrate World Oceans Day.”
Furthermore, the lack of data on the scale and impacts of this trade was cited by some countries as justification for opposing the proposals. “This is precisely the reason they should be including these sharks in CITES,” said Rebecca Regnery, Program Manager for Humane Society International. “If you want to collect data on shark trade, an essential place to start is to require countries to provide it. CITES Parties could have done that by casting a wiser vote today.”
Despite stiff opposition from the fishing industry and countries that oppose international regulation of fisheries trade, proposals for both species came within a few votes of the two-thirds majority needed to succeed. More than 60% of the Parties supported new protection for the spiny dogfish, raising hopes that the species will be reconsidered next week. “Today’s votes leave the future of shark conservation in limbo,” said Muffett. “There’s still time for these sharks. But not much.”
A related proposal to protect seven species of sawfish (which are close relatives of sharks) will be considered when the meeting resumes next week. Unlike the two shark proposals, the sawfish plan would end trade completely to ensure the survival of these critically endangered animals. Initial optimism that the sawfish would be fully protected here was turned on its head by a last- minute bid by Australia to allow trade to continue in live sawfish even if all other trade is banned. “Australia has been a leader on shark protection for years,” said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation and President of the Species Survival Network. “That they would put the sawfish at risk just so they can export to a few aquariums has us simply dumbfounded. It is a terrible mistake we hope they will reconsider and remedy before next week.”
The proposals to include porbeagle (Lamna nasus) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) sharks in CITES Appendix II were submitted by Germany on behalf of the European Community. If accepted, these shark species would join the Great White, Basking, and Whale Sharks, which were listed on Appendix II at previous CoPs. The porbeagle, one of the most commercially valuable of all shark species, is traded for meat, byproducts, and fins. Spiny dogfish is traded for its meat which is often used in popular European fish and chips dishes. Its fins, oil, leather and other products are also traded for a variety of purposes. . The proposal to include all species of sawfish (Pristidae) in Appendix I of the Convention was submitted by the United States and Kenya. Sawfish are threatened by overfishing, bycatch in fishing nets, and habitat loss. Their long, saw-like snouts, known as “rostra”, are traded as curious, their fins are used in shark fin soup, and live specimens are sold in the aquarium trade for up to $1700 per foot.
Porbeagle Sharks are Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic (IUCN 2006)
Porbeagles are Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean (IUCN 2006)
Porbeagles are Near Threatened in the Southern Ocean (IUCN 2006).
Spiny dogfish sharks are Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic (IUCN 2006)
Female porbeagles do not reproduce until they are teenagers and then only give birth to about 4 pups after a 8-9 month pregnancy
Spiny dogfish are Endangered in the Mediterranean Sea, Northwest Atlantic and Western North Pacific (IUCN 2006)
Spiny dogfish are Vulnerable in the Black Sea and in South American waters (IUCN 2006)
Spiny dogfish fisheries usually target pregnant females Sawfish species are all Critically Endangered (IUCN 2006)
Sawfish have very low reproductive rates, even compared to other sharks and rays, with some waiting up to 20 years before reproducing.
For more information contact:
Carroll Muffett Greenpeace (in the Hague) 06 4616 2042
Adam M. Roberts, Press Officer,
In The Hague: 06-5213 6798
WORLD FORUM CONVENTION CENTRE
10, Churchillplein NL-2508 THE HAGUE