Opponents fail to overturn shark protection deal
By Daniel Rook ,AFPBANGKOK -- Japan, China and other nations that support shark fishing on Thursday lost a bid to overturn a landmark deal that offers global trade protection for several species of the ocean's oldest predator.
March 15, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
A decision to restrict exports of the oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle, three types of hammerhead and the manta ray won final approval by the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“This is an historic day for marine conservation,” Glenn Sant of wildlife trade protection group Traffic said after the decision at a major wildlife conference in Bangkok.
“Shark populations are in freefall, but have been thrown a lifeline today — CITES has finally listened to the scientists.”
Rather than a complete ban, countries will be required to regulate trade by issuing export permits to ensure the sustainability of sharks in the wild, otherwise they could face sanctions by members of CITES, a global treaty which protects some 35,000 species.
The United States hailed the agreement as a “historic moment in shark and ray conservation.”
“The decline of these commercially exploited species is a global challenge that must be met with global solutions,” said the head of the U.S. delegation, Bryan Arroyo.
The move was agreed by member states on Monday but required final approval at the meeting's plenary session.
Opponents including Japan, China and India failed to garner enough support to challenge the earlier decision on the oceanic whitetip and the hammerheads.
Japan has a long history of shark fishing and its fishermen fear that moves to control the trade could hit an industry still recovering from the impact of a devastating tsunami that hit the country's northeast coast in March 2011.
Along with China, Japan argued that regional fishing bodies should be left to regulate shark exports.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Shingo Ota from Japan's Fisheries Agency said of the outcome.
“We are very much equally concerned about the status of those shark species, but the question is whether CITES is best placed or should we rely more on regional fisheries organizations,” he told AFP.
Hailing the meeting's refusal to overturn the deal, Susan Lieberman of The Pew Charitable Trusts described it as “the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES.”
The species now join the great white shark, the whale shark and the basking shark, which already enjoy international trade controls. Members have 18 months to introduce the new measures.