Washington, DC -
05/31/2012 - The Pew Environment Group today applauded the European Union (EU) for its action to protect the porbeagle shark—which is critically endangered in parts of the North Atlantic. The EU has listed the species on Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), effectively prohibiting for the first time the trade of porbeagle products without CITES documentation.
“We welcome this strong decision by the European Union, a key market for porbeagle products,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group. “The listing is a critical and a positive step toward better conservation and management of this shark throughout its global range.”
The porbeagle is a large shark found throughout the temperate North Atlantic and Southern oceans. This species yields significant commercial value for its meat and large fins. Populations have been severely depleted around the globe, and those in the northeast Atlantic are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The combination of the porbeagle’s low reproductive rate and high market worth makes populations especially vulnerable to overexploitation and depletion.
Under the regulation, porbeagle products must now carry a “certificate of origin,” and if the sharks are caught by EU vessels, an Appendix III permit is required.
The measure stops short of a full ban on commercial trade of porbeagle, or an international obligation to assess whether the trade is sustainable, as would be required under a CITES Appendix I or II listing, respectively.
“Although this listing is a good first step, much more is needed,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "We will encourage regional fisheries bodies to follow scientific advice and take action so this vulnerable species is given the full protection it requires. We hope the EU will submit the porbeagle for further trade regulation at the 2013 CITES meeting in Thailand, and that by then, countries will be prepared to adopt it.”
The EU has been a long-standing champion of the porbeagle shark. It led trade protection efforts at two previous CITES meetings in 2008 and 2010, but the proposals were narrowly defeated.
Thirty percent of all shark species are currently threatened worldwide. Up to 73 million of these animals are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.
- The Appendix III CITES listing means that all Parties to CITES must ensure that any porbeagle traded is accompanied by a CITES document. If the animal is from the EU, it must have an Appendix III permit. All other vessels must issue a Certificate of Origin that confirms the porbeagle is not from the EU. Parties outside the EU are not required to issue non-detriment (sustainability) findings, but they have to record and monitor the trade and be assured of its legality.
- Appendix I includes species that are threatened among CITES-listed animals and plants. Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that could become so unless trade is closely controlled.
- Efforts were made to adopt porbeagle management measures at the past few meetings of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas but no consensus was reached.
- The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) has banned directed fishing for porbeagle from 2012 to 2014 and requires any porbeagle caught incidentally to be promptly released. This is the only internationally-agreed upon protection for the species through regional fishery management organizations.
- This decision has now been formally submitted to the CITES Secretariat.