Shark passes the test

23 Mar 2010

Only 86 species of fish appear among some 34,000 species listed in Appendices 1 and 2 of CITES. After the bluefin tuna debacle last week, predictions were pessimistic about the fate of the 4 proposals to list sharks in Appendix 2. The porbeagle shark is the only to achieve this protection, which it made by only one vote. CITES doesn’t really have its sea legs. When it comes to addressing international trade in marine species, it delays taking responsibility, and using its toolbox to clean up the market. Japan is opposed to all of the proposals for listing sharks, even reconsidering the principle of control of international trade: “Appendix 2 stimulates the black market and creates a demand for a rare species.”

Sharks are targeted for their fins and sometimes their meat. They are also victims of incidental catch. Certain populations merit being listed in Appendix 1.

Porbeagle shark, commonly called sea calf (Lamna nasus)

This shark has practically disappeared in the Mediterranean. In addition to fishing, it also suffers from the effects of pollution, notably PCBs. The favorable opinion of the FAO and the fact that fishing has been closed in Europe were determining factors. The European proposal to list it in Appendix 2 was accepted with 86 votes for, 42 against and 8 abstentions. The porbeagle was the occasion of an exchange between the Argentinean and English delegations on the subject of the territorial conflict of the Falklands.

Hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini, Sphyrna mokarran and Sphyrna zygaena).

The populations of hammerhead sharks were abundant once. They have suffered a massive decline reaching 99.9% in the Mediterranean. China has put forward the impossibility for customs officers to make the distinction between the fins of hammerhead sharks and the fins of other sharks by showing photos to the assembly. The proposal to list it in Appendix 2, presented by the United States and Palau (micro state in the Pacific Ocean), was rejected with 75 votes for, 51 against and 16 abstentions.

Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)

It is subject to incidental catch from industrial fishing operations, notably of tuna. Like those of the hammerhead shark, the populations of the oceanic whitetip shark have suffered a massive decline. The proposal to list it in Appendix 2, drawn up by the United States and Palau, was rejected with 75 votes for, 51 against and 16 abstentions.

Spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias)

Among the sharks proposed to be listed in CITES, dogfish sharks are those which have the latest sexual maturity, the slowest growth and the longest gestation. Their grouping in schools of reproductive females, easily found by inshore fishermen, renders the population particularly vulnerable. In the northeast Atlantic, the stocks are on the verge of collapse. The European proposal to list it in Appendix 2 was rejected with 60 votes for, 67 against, and 11 abstentions.

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