Pew Applauds Vote Giving International Protections to Porbeagle Sharks

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Government delegates attending the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted today to list porbeagle sharks in Appendix II of the treaty, but rejected protections for three other vulnerable shark species.  An Appendix II listing requires exporting countries to ensure that international trade is legal and will not harm the survival of these species. 
 
"Sharks have been on our planet for more than 400 million years," said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group.  "But if governments do not act, many shark species will not last - even iconic species like the hammerheads.  Most species reproduce late in life, have few young and simply do not have the capacity to recover from commercial overfishing and global trade."
 
Four shark proposals were considered at the CITES meeting, taking place in Doha, Qatar:

  • Porbeagle sharks, which passed by a vote of 86 for, 42 against and 8 abstentions.  Cousins of the great white shark, porbeagle meat is among the most prized of all shark meat and their large fins are also frequently found in the global fin market. 
  • Scalloped hammerhead sharks, which failed by a vote of 75 for, 45 against and 14 abstentions. Known for their distinctive silhouettes, these sharks have declined by as much as 98% in some regions. Great and smooth hammerheads, vulnerable to overfishing because of the similarity of their fins, also were included in this proposal as "look-alike" species. 
  • Oceanic whitetip sharks, which failed by a vote of 75 for, 51 against and 16 abstentions.  Mostly because their large fins have been valued at $45 - $85 per kilogram, oceanic whitetip populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in the central Pacific Ocean and 99 percent in the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • Spiny dogfish sharks, which failed by a vote of 60 for, 67 against and 11 abstentions.  Spiny dogfish has one of the longest gestation periods for any vertebrate on the planet - up to two years - making the species extremely susceptible to overfishing.

"The shark fin trade which is responsible for the killing of up to 73 million sharks each year remains largely unregulated," said Rand.  "Today's votes only help porbeagle populations.  Even with scientific data showing that many shark populations are plummeting, international fisheries management bodies and now international conservation forums mostly favor commerce over protection.  Individual nations need to answer the call to protect threatened species if sharks are to remain in our oceans."

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