Costa Rica proposes further international protection for hammerhead sharks
On June 6, 2014 Costa Rica and Ecuador submitted proposals to include two hammerhead shark species (Sphyrna lewini, Sphyrna mokarran) in appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). The proposals will be voted on during the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) in Quito, Ecuador on November 4-9, 2014 and if accepted would require the Convention’s member states to develop conservation instruments that address the species’ declining population trends.
During the technical evaluation process, PRETOMA worked with a group of national and international NGOs and the Costa Rican government to research and write the proposals. “CMS focuses on conservation instruments that are binding to Party States, because of which we feel it will complement nicely with the recent listing of hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species of Widlife (CITES), which focuses on instruments to control international trade”, explained Randall Arauz de PRETOMA. “Costa Ricans consume thousands of tons of shark per year as steaks and chops, and because of this we need stronger controls imposed on the domestic market.”
Along with its hammerhead work, the group developed an appendix II listing proposal for silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) which was submitted by Egypt and highlighted the global fishing effort directed towards this species and the declines in relative abundance and average sizes of individuals.
In addition to the aforementioned proposals, the European Union submitted an appendix II listing for three species of thresher sharks (A. superciliosus, A. vulpinus, A. pelagicus), that demonstrated the growing need for international conservation measures to be developed for an increasing number of shark species.
“Through the hammerhead proposals, Costa Rica duly continues its international commitment to shark protection”, commented Andy Bystrom of PRETOMA. “Over the next few months Costa Rica will be evaluating the proposals submitted by other member countries to identify which ones it might be willing to cosponsor, such as the silky shark and thresher shark proposals, common species reported by the national fisheries fleet.
Because of their highly migratory nature, hammerhead shark populations around the world face tremendous fishing pressures from both small-scale coastal fisheries that catch juveniles as bycatch, to larger scale continental shelf fisheries that target or incidentally catch adults whose fins (considered to be the most valuable of any shark species) are cut off and sold to the Asian shark fin soup trade. These fishing threats, along with coastal habitat destruction, slow growth, a lengthy gestation period, and a propensity to bioaccumulate physiologically altering levels of mercury and arsenic in their bodies, have all resulted in up to a 99% population decline for both species in some regions, and in both species being listed as endangered with a very high risk of extinction.
The scalloped hammerhead (S. lewini) is famous for the large schools it forms at oceanic islands including Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The great hammerhead (S. mokarran) is the largest hammerhead species, reaching 6 meters in length and is one of the longest lived sharks on the planet, living over 40 years. It is estimated that one hammerhead shark in Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica, where a dive industry thrives, is worth US$85,000/year, and up to US$1.6 million if allowed to live for 20 years1.
1Friedlander, A.M, B.J. Zgliczynski, E .Ballesteros, O. Aburto-Oropeza, A. Bolaños, E. Sala. 2012. The shallow-water fish assemblage of Isla del Coco National Park, Costa Rica: structure and patterns in an isolated, predator-dominated ecosystem. Rev. Biol. Trop. Vol. 60 (3): 321-338
CMS is an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme. The Convention provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention. Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.http://www.pretoma.org/costa-rica-proposes-further-international-protection-for-hammerhead-sharks/Press Releases