Governments confront Internet trade at CITES; Sharks lose grip

Friday, June 8, 2007
The Hague, Netherlands
Measures to confront escalating levels of illegal trade via the Internet were overwhelmingly adopted today by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The decision to convene a workshop to confront this anonymous and as-as-of-yet unregulated trade comes just days after eBay announced a new global policy banning all cross-border trade in elephant ivory
An investigation conducted by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare; www.ifaw.org) in February revealed how the rampant trade in elephant ivory being carried out across eBay’s global network of auction sites is enabling consumers to literally bid for the extinction of the world’s largest land mammal.  CEEWEB (www.ceeweb.org), a network of environmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe and IFAW partner, released the results of another investigation this week revealing that the value of the illegal trade in wildlife on the Internet has already surpassed that of illicit in-store sales in seven countries in that region.
 
“The challenge posed by trade in wildlife on the Internet has been recognized by many international enforcement agencies, governments, NGOs and the public as a significant problem,” says Peter Pueschel, Global Head of IFAW’s Wildlife Trade Program. “Today’s decision is the first step in getting governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private citizens worldwide to engage constructively on this issue.”
 
In other CITES news, Parties dealt sharks a blow today in rejecting proposals to list the porbeagle shark and spiny dogfish on CITES Appendix II, two species threatened by dangerously escalating levels of consumption.  Inclusion on Appendix II would have provided these two species of sharks with international legal protection.
 
Pueschel was disappointed by the decision, but added, “We are encouraged by European Union’s expression of intention to build increased support for the shark proposals before the final vote at the end of next week.”
 
The porbeagle and spiny dogfish shark species are being heavily depleted by over-consumption; in the UK the spiny dogfish is served up as fish-and-chips, in Germany as “Schillerlocken” and in France, it is smoked and filleted.  Porbeagle shark steaks are consumed in Europe, while the fins are on the menu in increasingly worrying quantities in China and the Far East as a burgeoning middle class consumes shark fin soup as a symbol of its newly acquired financial status.

“It has no flavor,” says Samuel Lee, IFAW’s Special Assistant based in Hong Kong, Province of China. “People eat it because the high price makes them look successful.”
 
The porbeagle and spiny dogfish reproduce very slowly, are slow to mature and their numbers have been rapidly dwindling due to unmanaged fisheries.

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