CITES members urged to adopt shark-conservation measures at CoP19

Published on
October 28, 2022
Shark fins on display.

One Ocean Worldwide Coalition is urging the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) members to take the opportunity to end the global shark-fin trade at the upcoming CITES CoP19 meeting in Panama in November 2022.

The One Ocean Worldwide Coalition was founded in 2022 by Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation, For the Oceans Foundation, Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation, and the United Conservationists. The organization's objectives are to combat illegal fishing and the effects of climate change on the ocean, as well as to support species protection, scientific research, and environmental education programs.

CITES is an international agreement between 184 parties, including many governments, to ensure international trade of fauna and flora does not threaten the survival of endangered species. 

“CITES is a great venue to put a spotlight on what is happening to global shark populations," Fins Attached CEO Alex Antoniou said. "Governments must act fast before it is too late if species are to survive. The data is indisputable. Now there has to be cooperation on a global scale. The data is meaningless if nothing is done to enact greater protection laws. Further, when dealing with the biology of sharks, a precautionary approach must be adopted. Sharks simply cannot reproduce fast enough to keep up with the commercial fisheries. CITES members must be held accountable for the decisions they make and countries must be held accountable for their lack of enforcement."

An article published on 10 July, 2019, in Nature magazine, found there was a 71.1 percent decline in oceanic shark abundance from 1970 to 2018. The coalition said the decline was driven by overfishing and unregulated trade in shark fins, meat, liver oil (squalene), and cartilage.

One of the proposals submitted for consideration at CoP19 would add several new species of sharks and rays – including the silky shark and oceanic whitetip shark – to Apendix II, which would give them added protections. Within that list is the requiem sharks, a family covering several species of sharks that the coalition said is the least-regulated and the most-threatened – with about 68 percent of requiem sharks listed as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“Canada is a celebrated leader in shark protection as the first G20 nation to ban the import and export of shark fins in 2019. The Canadian government now has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect sharks facing extinction while supporting the recovery of many at-risk populations,” Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation Executive Director Lana Brandt stated. “There are still gaps in Canadian regulation allowing shark meat and liver oil (squalene) to enter our market that could be addressed by listing the entire family of requiem and hammerhead sharks.”

Requiem sharks are believed to be the majority of the species caught for use in the shark fin and meat trade, and adopting the new CITES proposals could reduce both illegal fishing and human and labor rights abuses, the coalition said.

Though, SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Chris Loew explained the other side to the shark fin industry and reasons for fins becoming the major market product seen today.

The coalition is collecting signatures for a petition it plans to send to global leaders participating in the convention, urging passage of the new rules.

“As with every effort aimed to protect wildlife in the ocean, we have concerns about whether the CITES recommendations are enough to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing," For the Oceans CEO Jorge Serendero said. "We applaud the incorporation of the requiem shark proposal to include a family-wide listing into Appendix II, proposed by Panama. We must support this work and continue to add other shark species to the CITES list. This will be challenging to implement effectively when illegal fishing will continue to be fueled by the world's market demand."

Photo courtesy of Wang Sing/Shutterstock 

Contributing editor reporting from Hawaii, U.S.A.

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