CITES decides on the fate of three vulnerable shark species

CITES decides on the fate of three vulnerable shark species
Spiny Dogfish © Andy Murch / Elasmodiver

The outcome of the 14th Meeting of the Conference of CITES Parties (CoP14) hosted by the Netherlands in June 2007 was disappointing for the many organisations and coalitions, including PADI and Project AWARE, who worked hard to promote better shark fisheries management and support three shark proposals: the German’s proposal to list two imperilled shark species (Spiny Dogfish and Porbeagle sharks) under Appendix II and the U.S. and Kenya’s proposal to ban international trade in sawfish, shark-like rays considered critically endangered around the world. After a week of intense lobbying two out of the three proposals failed and fell short of the required two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

“We are deeply dismayed that Spiny Dogfish and Porbeagle sharks, two exceptionally vulnerable and heavily traded shark species have been denied the global safeguards that are so urgently warranted” commented Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director.

The Porbeagle shark is principally used for fresh, frozen and dried-salted meat across Europe. Spiny dogfish, amongst other small shark species, is used in fish and chips in the UK, where it is called Rock Salmon', and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany, called 'Schillerlocken'. International trade of these sharks is not controlled and fisheries are ineffectively managed. Populations of both species, imported into the EU from countries like Canada,  Norway and the  US, have dramatically declined in the North Atlantic: by up to 95 per cent for the Spiny Dogfish and 89 per cent for the Porbeagle, in the last ten and forty years respectively.

A number of pro-whaling nations frustrated the meeting with endless points of order.  As a result a number of pro-listing delegations had left by the time of voting for the spiny dogfish proposal.  Many countries opposing the EU CITES listing proposals for sharks expressed concern over the lack of shark fishery management in European waters and used this as a reason to vote against the listings. During the debates, EU representatives underscored previous commitments to development of an EU Shark Plan by 2008.

  • However, while the number of votes to support the listing of Spiny Dogfish and Porbeagle sharks under Appendix II was not sufficient, progress has definitely been made on a number of fronts relating to the Shark Alliance core mission: restore and conserve shark populations by improving European fishing policy.
  • One of the three shark proposals has been adopted Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopted a landmark proposal to ban international trade in sawfish, shark-like rays with elongated, tooth-studded snouts. The proposal was made jointly by the United States and Kenya, and was weakened slightly by an annotation from Australia to allow limited trade in live specimens from one Australia species for conservation purposes.  The amended proposal received at least 69% of the vote; 66.67% is needed for adoption.  The US first proposed a ban on sawfish trade at CITES ten years ago.
  • Attention for sharks, particularly  Spiny Dogfish and Porbeagle has increased  – including media attention.
  • International pressure on the EU to establish management plans for sharks has increased.
  • The EU was united behind both proposals Spiny Dogfish and Porbeagle, even if they failed.

“The 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of CITES has been a real roller coaster ride.  Even though two shark proposals failed to be adopted, global awareness of the plight of sharks has been enhanced” said Sonja Fordham.  “We welcome the widespread recognition, by the EU and other countries, that national and international shark conservation measures are urgently needed to recover spiny dogfish populations and prevent depletion of other species.  It is imperative that the EU complete its overdue shark management plan, as a matter of priority, and that CITES continues its work to highlight and consider trade limitations for vulnerable shark species”.

Please support Project AWARE’s Protect the Sharks campaign and learn more about the latest activities of the Shark Alliance by visiting We need your support to continue our work to protect the sharks.

Together, we can make a difference 

Notes to Editors:

Project AWARE is the dive industry’s leading non-profit organisation conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action.  Project AWARE Foundation offices located in the  Australia, United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Switzerland combine efforts to conserve aquatic resources in 175 countries of the world. Project AWARE Foundation (International), formerly known as Project AWARE (UK), was established as a charity in 1999 specifically to offer regional assistance in the UK, Eire, Middle East, Africa, Russia, Mediterranean and the Nordic Regions. For more information on Project AWARE’s environmental initiatives visit

PADI – the Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the largest recreational scuba diver training organisation in the world. PADI serves professional members and dive consumers in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

CITES Explained:

  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), also known as the Washington Convention, is an international agreement, which aims to ensure the survival of individual species by managing their trade across international boundaries.
  • CITES provides an international legal framework for preventing trade in endangered species and regulating trade in species at risk. Currently, 171 countries are party to the agreement – and about 32,000 animal and plant species are afforded protection as a result.
  • Conference of the Parties (COPs) is held every three years to amend three Appendices under which species at risk are listed. Proposals to list, down-list or de-list species are proposed by Member governments and require a two-thirds majority for adoption.
  • CITES administered by UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Appendix I is reserved for species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade.
  • Appendix II listings serve to monitor and limit trade to sustainable levels through requirements for export permits and justification that export will not pose a detriment to wild populations.
  • Appendix III contains species that are not necessarily threatened on a global level, but that are protected within individual states where that state has sought the help of other CITES Parties to control international trade in that species.