Hammerheads miss out at CITES

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Doha, Qatar
Despite evidence on the declining populations of hammerhead sharks, Parties voted against additional protection today at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP 15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Doha.

“The rejection of this proposal does not make any sense at all,” said Dr Ralf Sonntag, IFAW marine biologist and Germany Director.

“Some populations of the scalloped hammerhead shark have declined by 80 to 90 per cent and yet Parties have not seen fit to uplist the species to Appendix II – this decision may lead to the disappearance of this charismatic species.”

The northwest Atlantic population of scalloped hammerhead declined by 89% from 1986 to 2000. The FAO expert panel cites an 83% decline from 1981 to 2005 for the same population and a decline of up to 90% in the southwest Atlantic population. The declines are mainly due to finning and bycatch. Hammerheads are among the shark species which are the slowest to recover from exploitation, they reproduce very slowly.

“These sharks have fins that contain a large amount of cartilage – sadly this makes them highly desirable for shark fin soup,” said Dr Sonntag.

“A listing on Appendix II would not have stopped international trade, simply helped to ensure that data is accurately recorded assisting the sustainable species-specific management of trade which is currently lacking.

“But is seems that yet again science is being ignored at this meeting, which could have a devastating on hammerheads and look-alike shark species.”

The great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, sandbar shark and dusky shark were recommended for listing on Appendix II in the proposal because they are look-alike species. The USA amended the proposal to remove sandbar and dusky sharks after discussion by the Parties, and also agreed to extend the implementation period to 24 months and committed to assist with capacity building and implementation measures.

The proposal, which was submitted by Palau and the United States was rejected 45 votes against, 75 votes in support and 14 abstained. Since it did not reach the two-thirds majority required, it was rejected.

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