From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published March 14, 2013 09:57 AM

Endangered Sharks

Well-known species of sharks such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain. Well man is actually at the very top. Many sharks are endangered as are many other creatures. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES has just accepted Committee recommendations to list five species of highly traded sharks under the CITES Appendices, along with those for the listing of both manta rays and one species of sawfish. Japan, backed by Gambia and India, unsuccessfully challenged the Committee decision to list the oceanic whitetip shark, while Grenada and China failed in an attempt to reopen debate on listing three hammerhead species. Colombia, Senegal, Mexico and others took the floor to defend Committee decisions to list sharks.

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The meeting reached a climax after an attempt to reopen the debate on these species in the closing Plenary was narrowly defeated. The Parties confirmed a decision made by one of the Conference’s Committees earlier in the week to include five commercially valuable shark species in Appendix II.

The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) are harvested in huge numbers for their valuable fins and, in some cases, meat. From now onwards, they will have to be traded with CITES permits and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally. These listings mark a milestone in the involvement of CITES in marine species.

In the Committee meeting, the oceanic whitetip shark had been adopted by 92 votes in favor, 42 against and 8 abstentions. Colombia introduced the proposal, supported immediately by co-proponents Brazil and the United States of America. Those against the listing argued that regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) were best placed to tackle the decline in shark stocks.

Ecuador introduced proposal 46 for the inclusion of manta ray species in Appendix II. The proposal was adopted with 96 votes in favor, 23 against and 7 abstentions. Manta rays are slow-growing, large-bodied migratory animals with small, highly fragmented populations. They have among the lowest reproductive rates of any marine animals, with females giving birth to only one pup every two to three years, making them extremely vulnerable to over exploitation. Most known populations are small in size, although there is an exceptional population of one species in the Maldives, estimated at 5,000 or more. Manta gill plates fetch high prices in international markets and have been traded in significant numbers in recent years.

Manta rays are recognized by their large bodies, 23 feet in width, triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, forward-facing mouths. They can be found in temperate, subtropical and tropical waters in much of the world ocean.

For further information see Cites.

Shark image via Wikipedia.

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