Sharks on Deck at The Hague

Porbeagle on deck © Lisa Natanson / NOAA NMFS

What:  Deliberations and vote regarding landmark proposals to limit trade in threatened species of sharks (spiny dogfish and porbeagles) and closely related sawfish.

Who:  The 171 member countries (Parties) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

When:  June 3-15, 2007, held at two and half year intervals

Where:  World Forum Convention Center (WFCC) 10, Churchillplein, NL-2508 EA THE HAGUE 

What:  CITES side event briefing on proposals to list sharks & sawfish under CITES 

Who:  The Shark Alliance and the Species Survival Network featuring other shark and CITES experts

When:  Friday 8th June 2007, 12.00 – 14.00 (Lunch provided)

Where:  The Atlantic Room, WFCC

What makes it interesting?

Most CITES experts, including the CITES Secretariat, agree that the spiny dogfish and porbeagle shark proposals (from the EU) are sound and the species qualify for listing as proposed (Appendix II). There is, however, strong opposition from many countries that oppose CITES action for marine fish in general, as well as from nations that target these species.  

Sawfish (shark like rays) are among the most endangered fish in the world. They face multiple threats including trade in their fins (for shark fin soup) and elongated snouts (for curios and traditional medicines).  The US is proposing an international ban on this trade (under CITES Appendix I).

The US has been a champion for CITES attention to sharks, but has yet to support the EU shark proposals.  US Atlantic populations of spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks are considered Endangered by the IUCN. The US allows fishing for both species; a federal plan to rebuild dogfish is being defied by Atlantic states, leading to dramatic quota overages and political pressure to oppose CITES action. 

Why is it important?

Success for the shark proposals would represent a landmark achievement in global marine fish conservation and help to safeguard the species from unsustainable trade. Defeat would leave unlisted species grossly under-protected in the face of strong demand, with little hope for international conservation action for years to come.  

Success for the sawfish proposal would result in the first international trade ban for a marine fish and could prompt the complementary domestic action that is needed to prevent sawfish extinction. Defeat could well be the last nail in the coffin for at least some of these critically endangered populations.