A few weeks ago representatives from 177 parties came together in Bangkok, Thailand, for the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP). Hosted by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement between governments to regulate the trade of different specimens. On the agenda this year were 5 species of sharks (Porbeagle, Oceanic White Tips, and 3 species of Hammerheads) as well as the 2 species of manta rays. The outcome of this discussion was to “upgrade” those species to Appendix II for which a two-third majority of votes was required. To clarify, CITES distinguishes 3 Appendices:
- Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
- Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
- Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.
As you can see, the upgrade to Appendix II means that trade must be controlled, not that there is a complete ban on fishing those species. It is an amazing step forward though, especially since traditionally the listing of marine species has faced a lot of opposition. Shark consuming countries, such as China and Japan, not only blocked many proposals; they also had a strong lobby in “buying” votes from other countries by offering (or refusing) any sort of financial aid to weaker countries. These rumors could be supported by the many secrets ballots that were held.
Despite this, this CITES meeting was unique in a way that so much information was available to the public through various social media channels. CITES4Sharks, which included 6 conservation organisations with many years of expertise in marine conservation and management, was instrumental in sharing information about CITES COP16. The public could follow the discussion and had themselves heard through various petitions and campaigns which proved to be powerful tools. The fact that such a great audience was reached will surely benefit the discussion, and I consider this CITES decision as the next step in ensuring the future of all those beautiful sharks out there!
If you would like to know more about this recent CITES meeting, have a look at www.projectaware.org or www.CITES4sharks.org. In my next blog I will talk about implications for our Indonesian sharks and rays.
Have you have seen sharks, or shark fishing? Leave a comment! You might also interested in reading about the cruel sight Niels encountered not too long ago in Sanur.