CITES Accepts Protection Plan for <i>Jaws</i> Shark

A U.N. conference endorsed a proposal on Tuesday to slap controls on trade in the ocean's most feared predator, the great white shark of Jaws fame.

BANGKOK — A U.N. conference endorsed a proposal on Tuesday to slap controls on trade in the ocean's most feared predator, the great white shark of Jaws fame.

Conservationists hailed the move as an important step toward protecting the animal, a living torpedo with teeth who has killed surfers and swimmers but has suffered greatly at the hands of humans.

"This will contribute significantly to great white shark conservation," said Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International, which had campaigned for the proposal. "Now we have an opportunity to ensure trade in great white body parts is regulated sustainably."

The decision made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), places the great white on CITES Appendix II — which regulates strictly but does not outright ban trade — at the behest of Australia and Madagascar.

For example, it does not ban sport fishing, but countries that wish to export great white body parts must convince CITES that such trade is not detrimental to the species, which will require further study of its little-known numbers.


The joint proposal argued that a listing "for the white shark would help ensure that exploitation of this globally threatened species is regulated and monitored and that international trade is not detrimental to its survival."

White sharks are targeted commercially and by recreational fishers for their valuable jaws and teeth. Their fins, like those of other sharks, are in high demand for soup.

Firm numbers are not known, but scientists say available data suggest the population is in decline. The shark is found in greatest abundance off the coasts of California, Australia, and South Africa. In South Africa, it is famed for its explosive and acrobatic attacks on seals.

The great white is only the third shark to be afforded such protection by CITES, joining the far larger but gentle basking and whale sharks.

The Swiss-based World Conservation Union's "Red List" — a respected wildlife guideline widely used by scientists and conservationists — classifies 82 sharks and rays as threatened. Another 10 are expected to be added soon.

Wrasse Gets Help

The conference also adopted a proposal to regulate trade in the humphead wrasse, a giant Indo-Pacific fish threatened by harvesting for both the live aquarium industry and exploitation as food.

Some countries are opposed to CITES regulations on fisheries on the grounds that they are not easy to enforce or because they are seen as a threat to commercial interests.

But scientists say the world's fisheries, many of which are severely depleted, need all the help they can get.

"We've come to realize that marine animals are no less threatened than terrestrial ones," said Yvonne Sadovy, chairwoman of the World Conservation Union's Specialist Group for Groupers and Wrasses.

As expected, the conference accepted a U.S. proposal to loosen trade restrictions on the bald eagle, a gesture which recognized the fact that its numbers have soared back from the brink of extinction in America's lower 48 states.

Madagascar's spider tortoise and its leaf-tailed gecko also got added protection.

All topics on the agenda must go back through the plenary on Wednesday and possibly Thursday, but that process is almost always a rubber-stamping formality.

Source: Reuters