EU Helps CITES Take a Bite Out of Shark Fin Trade

Monday, March 11, 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

IFAW has welcomed the decision today by the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP 16) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to agree three proposals - two of which were proposed by the EU - giving greater protection to five shark species.

“We are delighted that the EU has played a part in the CITES Parties’decision to combat the voracious trade in shark fins that currently slaughters up to 100 million sharks per year,” said Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW’s EU Director. “Today’s decision, if agreed at plenary, means that five shark species – the porbeagle, whitetip and 3 species of hammerhead - will be included in Appendix II of CITES which will help regulate the international trade in their products and make sure that it is managed in a biologically sustainable way.”

Sharks such as the hammerheads or the Oceanic Whitetips, are among the most sought after sharks on the markets and especially also on the black markets. This market demand puts them at highest risk with devastating effect on the local shark populations and the marine ecosystem here. That is why we need international regulations like CITES. The Porbeagle, unlike the other sharks listed, are sought primarily for their meat with the fins considered a useful by-product.

The scalloped hammerhead shark also has a slow reproductive rate which means that its populations cannot recover quickly enough to sustain their populations. It is largely targeted for its fin which means that once caught its fin is often cruelly cut off before it is thrown back into the sea dead or alive. The fin is then used to make soup. Many others are caught incidentally through commercial fishing.

Smooth and great hammerhead shark fins are very similar to those of the scalloped hammerhead which means that they are at risk of being targeted accidentally for their fins.

Denmark, on behalf of the EU, co-submitted the proposals to protect the Porbeagle and the three species of hammerhead sharks.

“This is a bold move by CITES and should be applauded,” said Dr. Ralf Sonntag, IFAW’s shark specialist. “These sharks are worth far more alive than dead to local communities. Sharks are charismatic animals that are beloved by divers and therefore can play an important role in attracting more tourists and tourist revenue for coastal communities.”

"There is no hidden reserve of sharks and they are disappearing fast.  Most sharks have an exceptionally limited biological productivity and can therefore be overfished even at very low levels of fishing mortality. Sharks such as Porbeagle are absolutely critical for the long term health of the ocean. Their loss could lead to unpredictable consequences to the ocean, including the health of marine habitats and fisheries," concluded Dr Sonntag.

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