Countries vote on regulating shark fin trade in landmark decision at Wildlife Summit | sharks

At the world’s largest wildlife summit, countries voted for the first time to regulate the trade that kills millions of sharks each year to sate huge appetites for shark fin soup.

In a decision hailed as groundbreaking by marine conservationists, parties to the 186-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) have voted to limit or regulate commercial trade in 54 species of sharks in the Requiem family. including tiger, bull and blue sharks, which are most targeted for the fin trade. It will require countries to ensure legality and sustainability before authorizing the export of these species.

The proposal, tabled by Panama, the host country, and backed by 40 others, including EU countries and the UK, will offer protection to sharks, which make up two-thirds of the species targeted by the fin market. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, most squirrel sharks are threatened with extinction.

“Now at last the deeply unsustainable shark fin trade is being fully regulated,” said Luke Warwick, director of shark and ray conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“These two families make up well over half of the shark fin traded in a half-billion-dollar trade annually,” Warwick said. The new protections would give them a chance to recover and “will forever change the way the world’s ocean predators are managed and protected,” he added.

Studies show that 37% of shark and ray species are threatened with extinction and oceangoing or pelagic sharks have declined by more than 70% in just 50 years. Scientists say these declines are a direct result of overfishing and unregulated international trade, which stem from a deficit in national and international management.

The proposal was not accepted unanimously. Japan has tabled an amendment to remove the 35 shark species that were endangered or critically endangered from the original proposal, while Peru called for the blue shark to be deleted. Both amendments did not get the necessary votes and after two hours of debate the original proposal was accepted without amendment. All Cites decisions are binding on States Parties, which have one year to amend their regulations on catching these sharks.

“Requiem sharks are among the most trafficked but least protected species,” said Diego Jiménez, director of conservation policy at the nonprofit SeaLegacy. Almost 70% of the squirrel shark family are already endangered.

Family-level listing will help customs and border control officials with enforcement, Jiménez said, since nearly every shipment of shark fin would require the proper Cites permit or certificate. It could be a game changer, shifting the proportion of the fin trade managed by Cites from 25% to 70%, he said.

But critics, including marine biologists, say the cites list could have the opposite effect, raising the hidden market price of fins and meat and increasing illegal shark fishing.

In 2021, fin imports from Ecuador to Peru — the top exporter of fins in the Americas — reached double pre-pandemic levels, according to research from Oceana Peru. Of the 300 tons of dried fins that arrived from Ecuador, more than 160 tons were from a Cites-listed species, the endangered pelagic thresher shark, which is fished for its exceptionally long fins.

“These levels of trade are occurring despite the fact that it is a species whose international trade is regulated by cites,” said Alicia Kuroiwa, director of habitats and endangered species at Oceana Peru.

That case, along with other irregularities in shark fin exports from Peru to Hong Kong, has been brought to the attention of the Cites Standing Committee for “further investigation and recommendation to the two countries,” Kuroiwa said.

Violating the Cites regulations could be punished with the “temporary closure of trade in all Cites-listed species, which would be very serious for Peru,” she added.

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