Published 23 March 2010


Mixed fortunes for sharks at CITES

Doha, Qatar, 23rd March 2010 – Governments at a United Nations meeting on wildlife trade today voted against better international trade controls for five shark species, which are in severe decline because of overfishing for their high-value fins and meat.

CITES delegates voted on whether to protect five shark species from overfishing, mainly for the fin trade. © Glenn Sant / TRAFFIC  

The Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) governments voted against proposals to list three hammerhead sharks (Scalloped, Great and Smooth), the Oceanic Whitetip and the Spiny Dogfish in Appendix II of the Convention, which would enforce better management of the fisheries for international commercial trade and allow their declining populations to recover.

However, governments did vote to include the Porbeagle Shark – overfished primarily for its meat and fins – in Appendix II. 

“Once again CITES has failed to listen to the scientists. The decision not to list all of these sharks today is a conservation catastrophe for these species,” said Glenn Sant, Global Marine Programme Co-ordinator for TRAFFIC. 

“Populations of these sharks have declined by more than 90% in some areas, many of them caught illegally and destined to end up in the shark-fin trade. They are targeted because of their high value.” 

“The current level of trade in these species is simply not sustainable.” 

The rejection of three of the four sharks proposals follows the failure of other marine proposals at CITES last week to introduce stronger trade restrictions for Red and Pink corals, and an outright ban on the international commercial trade of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – both despite overwhelming scientific evidence that additional protection for these species is needed. 

“These marine species are in dire need of stronger trade protections and sound management. We will continue to fight for this,” said Carlos Drews, Director, Species Programme, WWF International.

“The vitality of our oceans upon which millions of people depend, relies on healthy populations of species such as sharks and corals.”

The sharks discussed at today’s meeting are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they are all slow growing, late to mature, long-living and produce few young, which means it is difficult for populations to recover from overfishing.