U.S. and E.U. leading the way in global shark conservation

These nations will propose eight shark species for CITES trade regulation that will ensure their survival

Press Release Date: April 22, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana is applauding the United States for submitting proposals today to list six threatened shark species – oceanic whitetip, dusky, sandbar and great, scalloped and smooth hammerheads – under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This announcement follows a previous decision by the European Union to propose two other species, spurdog and porbeagle sharks, for similar CITES protection.

These moves by the United States and the European Union highlight the growing awareness of, and urgent need for, global shark conservation. While national initiatives for shark conservation are enormously important, these issues must also be addressed on regional and global scales,” notes Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for the marine conservation organization. “Sharks are migratory and swim from country to country. They can be caught in one ocean and landed across the world in another. And their products, like their meat and especially fins, are traded on an international level. CITES is the tool needed to regulate this trade and ensure the future of these species.”

CITES provides a worldwide legal framework for regulating and controlling trade in species at risk of extinction. All eight of these shark species are under pressure because of the increased global trade of shark products, particularly the fins. An Appendix II listing would ensure that only catches from sustainably managed fisheries enter international trade. Those countries wishing to export these species must issue a permit demonstrating that trade would not be detrimental to the future of these species.

These proposals by the United States and European Union build upon growing domestic actions to protect sharks. Last week, Spain published a prohibition on the catch, landing and commercialization of hammerhead and thresher sharks. The Ministerial Order will take effect January 1 and apply to the entire Spanish fleet, regardless of where the boats operate. This week, the United Kingdom reinforced its shark finning ban by prohibiting the removal of all fins at sea and requiring all UK registered vessels to land sharks with their fins attached. Earlier this year in the U.S., the House of Representatives passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which would require a similar “fins attached” practice for all sharks caught in U.S. waters. Similar legislation is currently pending in the U.S. Senate.

Other countries around the world are also taking action to protect sharks. Palau recently developed a 230,000 square mile “shark sanctuary,” where commercial shark fishing will be banned, and the Maldives recently banned all reef shark fishing within its waters.

Shark populations are declining worldwide, and these eight sharks are highly vulnerable to fisheries, both directed and incidental, and their catches enter international trade in high levels. This is driving the overexploitation at unsustainable levels. Listing these sharks on CITES would be a powerful tool in managing the trade and preventing their further decline.” explained Rebecca Greenberg, responsible for the shark campaign in Oceana in Europe.

All CITES proposals submitted by yesterday will be considered for adoption at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15), which will take place in Doha, Qatar in March 2010.