‘Landmark vote’ gives impetus to endangered sharks

Gray reef shark

A requiem shark swims underwater in the ocean

More than 50 species of sharks will be protected from over-exploitation in what is seen as a milestone for shark conservation.

Nearly 200 countries have voted to add a raft of sharks to the list of species protected by global trade rules.

The measures apply to the requiem shark family, which includes the tiger sharks, and to six small hammerhead sharks.

The sharks are threatened with extinction by the trade in fins to make shark fin soup.

This “landmark” vote gives these two shark families “a fighting chance” for survival, said Sue Lieberman of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

“We know there is a biodiversity crisis,” she said. “One of the biggest threats to species in the wild is overexploitation for trade.”

Cross-border wildlife trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is designed to reduce demand for endangered wildlife, allowing populations to recover.

Countries will meet for two weeks to discuss new proposals to protect sharks, turtles, songbirds and other species.

Thursday’s vote at the 19th Conference of the Parties in Panama will bring the most unsustainable global shark fin trade under regulation.

“The proposals passed today for the requiem and hammerhead sharks championed by the government of Panama will forever change the way the world’s ocean predators are managed and protected,” said Luke Warwick, director of shark conservation and marine conservation. stingrays at the WCS.

The two shark families account for more than 50% of the shark fin trade and many species are threatened with extinction.

If they are listed on CITES, it means that a country wishing to trade products must issue a license to exporters and provide a document certifying that scientists have demonstrated that the permitted trade does not harm wild populations.

The decision must be signed at the end of the meeting, but it is very unlikely that it will be reversed.

Conservation groups have long been sounding alarm bells about the plight of sharks and rays. A quarter are classified as endangered, with commercial fishing for shark fins and meat a major factor in their demise.

Most sharks are at the top of the food chain, making them critical to the health of the oceans. Its loss would have a major impact on other fish populations and ultimately on human livelihoods.

The CITES Cop 19 runs from November 14 to 25 in Panama.

Follow Helen on Twitter @hbriggs.

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