CITES CoP 16 Bangkok: several vulnerable shark populations need urgent protection

Shark finning at a market in Dibba, Oman.The rate at which sharks are vanishing from the world’s oceans is reaching a tipping point.

Many shark populations have declined to a mere 20 per cent of their original level.

The main cause for this dramatic reduction in numbers is shark finning – fishermen cut off the fins of the sharks, often while they are still alive, and dump the remaining body in the sea.

The fins are used as an ingredient for shark fin soup.

This brutal and cruel practice has devastating effects on the marine ecosystem.

Sharks are not the heartless killers they are often depicted as but rather an essential part of the ocean life cycle.

The best chance to save and protect the sharks is through binding regulation of the trade in shark products.

The only place to get binding, global regulation needed is the upcoming Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Bangkok, Thailand happening March 3 – 14, 2013.

There will be four proposals to better protect sharks.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) works hard to convince enough member countries of the necessity and urgency of the shark proposals.

The proposals would protect the oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks, the porbeagle shark and manta rays.

Part of the difficulty in conserving sharks is that they have very low reproductive rates and they need several years to mature before they are able to mate.

As an example, the female porbeagle shark matures sexually 13 years of age.

The gestation period can also be quite long, for instance the scalloped hammerhead carries her pups nine to ten months, just as long as human mothers.

After all that the litters can be quite small.

For example, the oceanic whitetip shark gives birth to just five to six pups every other year.

But there is hope, previously we’ve successfully lobbied for greater protection under CITES for the whale shark - with a length of 20 meters it is the largest living fish on earth.

If the world leaders agree to grant the sharks the much needed protection these precious species will have gained a slight chance for recovery and our oceans a chance for survival.

--RS

Visit our CITES campaign page for all the latest updates on IFAW efforts to protect wildlife via CITES.

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