Many sharks and other elasmobranches are threatened by extinction. The inclusion of two of these species in CITES is necessary to ensure their sustainable future.
Upon the eve of World Oceans Day celebration, Oceana, the international organisation dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans, strongly supports the definitive listing of the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The official EU position, adopted by the European Council last 25th May, is to support the proposals to include these two shark species in CITES Appendix II. The final decision for inclusion in the Convention will be held at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which is taking place in The Hague, Netherlands, from 3 to 15 June 2007.
These proposals originated in the European Union. Oceana commends the EU for taking these first steps in ensuring a sustainable shark trade, and hopes this favourable position is maintained by the EU, and upheld by all CITES contracting parties, during the two-week long meeting. Both of these shark species enter international trade in considerable volumes and most experts agree that they are relevant for protection by CITES. However, there remains to be opposition from countries that oppose CITES action for marine fish in general, as well as from nations that target these species in various fisheries.
The severe depletion of these species’ populations in several parts of the world is well documented, and both are categorized by the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, as “Vulnerable” globally, “Endangered” in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, and “Critically Endangered” in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.
Today, many spiny dogfish fisheries are unmanaged, and numerous stocks are overfished. European demand for this shark’s meat, often used in the famous “fish and chips” dish, is driving directed fisheries which target pregnant females and results in the serial depletion of populations around the world. In the case of the porbeagle shark, the high commercial demand, coupled with little, or no, fishing restriction has led to population declines in many areas, most dramatically in the North Atlantic. This shark has been targeted for decades, and is also often caught as bycatch in many fisheries. Its meat is highly prized in Europe, and its large fins are valuable on the Asian fin market.
CITES provides an international legal framework for regulating trade of species in danger of extinction. Therefore, the monitoring of the trade of these species via CITES Appendix II is urgently needed. An Appendix II listing serves to limit trade to sustainable levels through the requirement of export permits.
“I strongly believe that controlling the trade of the dogfish and porbeagle sharks through CITES Appendix II can even improve the effectiveness of fisheries management actions – like adopting adequate fishing quotas and implementing the International Plan of Action for Sharks- in countries currently exporting these two species from depleted population,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe. “This would help ensure that developing fisheries for these species are sustainable”, adds Aguilar.
In addition to these two shark species, the inclusion of sawfishes in CITES Appendix I is also up for debate. The entire Pristidae family (seven species of sawfish) is categorized as “Critically Endangered”, according to IUCN Red List criteria, and it is very possible that the last populations of sawfishes in Europe are already extinct. Inclusion in Annex I would effectively ban all trade of these fish. Oceana stresses the importance of the sawfish family being added to CITES Appendix I so that these species do not become extinct around the world.