Published 8 June 2007


CITES fails to list sharks

The Hague, The Netherlands, 8 June 2007—Two shark species highly prized for their meat and fins have not gained trade protection under CITES, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

CITES delegates failed to list Porbeagle, despite overwhelming evidence the species met the listing criteria © C Lisa Natanson NOAA / NMFS

The porbeagle shark is principally used for fresh, frozen and dried-salted meat across Europe. Spiny dogfish is used in fish and chips in the UK, where it is often called “rock salmon” or “huss”, and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany, called “Schillerlocken".

“We are seeing massive global shark declines primarily due to the current unsustainable levels of fishing, and international trade is a major contributing factor,” said Cliona O’Brien of WWF’s Global Species Programme. 

Both shark proposals had been submitted by Germany on behalf of the European Union for an Appendix II CITES listing, but discussions at the CITES meeting today rejected the proposals. Although a majority of member countries supported the proposals, they were defeated by a blocking minority. 

“The failure to list spiny dogfish and porbeagle on Appendix II is a shameful triumph of politics over conservation,” said O’Brien. “We needed action, not procrastination.”

The international trade of porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks is not controlled. As a result, populations have dramatically declined in the North Atlantic—by up to 95 per cent for the spiny dogfish and 89 per cent for the porbeagle, in the last ten and 40 years respectively.

“If CITES discards this opportunity, it may be the end of the line for these two sharks and a fatal recipe for some of the favourite seafood dishes of European consumers.” said Steven Broad, Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. 

Three-quarters of the world’s commercial fish stocks are already over-exploited, fished right up to their limit or recovering from collapse. 

Scientists recently discovered that 90 per cent of the big predatory fish, such as sharks, have been stripped from the oceans by industrialized fishing vessels.


The porbeagle shark is a powerful, medium-sized, highly migratory shark. There is international demand for, and trade, in its high-value meat and fins. It is also used in fertilizer. 

Spiny dogfish is a slender, smaller sized white-spotted shark that grows to about one metre long and travels in schools. It is found in cool, coastal waters worldwide.