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Nearly 100 shark species protected thanks to groundbreaking vote to control trade in shark fins

2 min read

Flora & Fauna
Oceanic 10-2016
Source: IFAW © Tom Burns

Dozens of shark species will get better protection with the tightening of the international Cites convention on trade in endangered wildlife.

Horrific fact about sharks

One of the most horrific facts about sharks may surprise you. It has actually very little to do with sharks, and all with us humans. Each year, we kill at least 73 million sharks each year a new study reports. The primary reason is that we kill sharks cruelly only for their fins. Secondly, some consider it a ‘sport’ to catch them. This has led to a sharp decline in shark populations. Ourworldindata.org shows stocks are now way below the maximum sustainable yield a common objective of fisheries management, is the point beyond which a fishery tips into an unsustainable level (assuming fishing pressure remains the same) and that can ultimately lead to stock collapse. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/maximum-sustainable-yield , and continue to decline.

Groundbreaking decision

Fortunately, there is also good news. IFAW announced that a groundbreaking decision has been taken by world governments. They promise to turn the tide for shark conservation, with nearly 100 species of shark and ray awarded increased protections by the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

shark IMG_0964 © Vanessa Mignon / IFAW – A great white shark

A large majority of the 184 participating countries voted in favour of protected status at a conference in Panama City. Especially shark species caught for their fins, for Asian shark fin soup, benefit. Only sustainable catches are now allowed and trade in shark products will be more strictly controlled.

From 25% to over 90% of shark species protected

“The trade in shark fins and shark meat puts many of these ecologically important predators at risk of extinction,” explains shark expert Barbara Slee. Until now, a quarter of shark species were protected, which now becomes more than 90 percent. “Thanks to this decision, shark species that have long been overlooked are finally getting the protection they so desperately need,” Slee said.

IFAW has long called for such measures to effectively manage shark fisheries. European countries with large fishing fleets, including the Netherlands, have a crucial role to play here. So far, there are few trade restrictions and little or no control over shark fishing.

Hundreds of shark dorsal and/or pectoral fins of all shapes and sizes drying out on a rooftop of an industrial building in Kennedy Town, Sai Wan, Hong Kong SAR, China, January 2, 2013. These fins are being processed to be sold in the lucrative shark trade in Asia. With Hong Kong’s warm and humid climate, shark fins will often be left outside to air dry. Unlike other Asian ports, Hong Kong does not have any fish landings, and all shark fins enter Hong Kong through cargo from airplanes or shipping containers from vessels.
Hundreds of shark dorsal and/or pectoral fins of all shapes and sizes drying out on a rooftop of an industrial building in Kennedy Town, Sai Wan, Hong Kong SAR, China, January 2, 2013. These fins are being processed to be sold in the lucrative shark trade in Asia. With Hong Kong’s warm and humid climate, shark fins will often be left outside to air dry. Unlike other Asian ports, Hong Kong does not have any fish landings, and all shark fins enter Hong Kong through cargo from airplanes or shipping containers from vessels. Source: IFAW © Stan Shea

The proposals required a two-thirds majority of governments present to pass. The requiem shark listing included 19 Critically Endangered or Endangered species and a further 35 species for lookalike reasons and was passed in a secret ballot with 88 votes in support, 29 against and 17 abstentions.

Why sharks matter

Alongside other predators, sharks play important roles in helping to maintain the delicately balanced ecosystems that keep our oceans healthy, saveourseas.com reports.  Their feeding can affect prey population numbers, but also prey distribution. as they select a habitat to avoid being eaten.

Carbon Sinks

Large predators like sharks are also effective carbon sinks, so more large fish in our oceans could reduce the carbon dioxide being released into our atmosphere. Through their migrations and diving behavior, sharks also help cycle nutrients between different locations and the depths and shallow. The ripple effects of an ocean without predators could be far-reaching and devastating for marine life and life on land.

 

Make an Impact

Want to help protect sharks? Support IFAW!

IFAW advocates for sustainable trade limits for shark species threatened by the international demand for shark fins, and provides resources and support to governments seeking to better manage sharks and rays in their region.

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