Historic day for international shark conservation
(Quito, Ecuador – November 9, 2014)
An unprecedented number of sharks, including two species of hammerheads, the entire genus of thresher sharks, and the silky shark species, were officially incorporated into Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) earlier today during its 11th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) in Quito, Ecuador. The favorable vote by CMS’s 120 member parties to list these six species of sharks in its Appendix II is the culmination of an eight month collaborative effort between an international group of NGOs, the CMS Secretariat, the European Union, and the Costa Rican, Ecuadorian, and Egyptian governments.
“The species listed under Appendix II are very important for Costa Rica,” expressed Gina Cuza, Government of Costa Rica’s CMS Focal Point. “Hammerhead sharks are a main attraction of the recreational dive industry, particularly in Cocos Island, while silky sharks are the most commonly caught species by our pelagic fisheries, where thresher sharks are also commonly caught.
The listing of hammerhead, silky, and thresher sharks under Appendix II of CMS builds on the political momentum begun through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to stop the dramatic population decline of these exceptional marine creatures. Faced with growing international trade and domestic exploitation concerns, CMS will now play a role in initiating and encouraging greater collaboration among its member countries toward better conservation and management of these species.
“Sharks face an uphill battle, there’s no doubt about that,” said a concerned Andy Bystrom of the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA. “This is why governments need to implement regional and global conservation strategies that include decreasing the fishing pressure on these animals and protecting essential coastal habitats where many shark species reproduce”, he concluded.
“Threatened shark species, like the scalloped hammerheads we study and work to protect, will now have the conservation support of nations,” said Todd Steiner, the executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “This is an exciting moment that we hope will lead to improved fishing practices and greater international cooperation to benefit sharks.”
“The work has only just begun, as many pressures exist due to the many interests at stake”, pointed out Randall Arauz, of PRETOMA. “If we don’t act now, it will be impossible to restore the populations of these threatened marine species, which are vital for the function of the marine ecosystem, and upon which humanity itself depends on.”
All shark species proposals will be officially incorporated into the CMS’s Appendix II during the CoP’s final plenary on November 9, 2014.
- According to an alarming analysis by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG) published in January this year, an estimated quarter of the world’s more than 1,000 shark and ray species are threatened. The SSG highlighted overfishing as the main threat to sharks as the species have long been sought for their fins and meat.
- Recovery from global overfishing is a difficult process for these animals given their slow growth, late maturity, and low reproductive rates.
- Around the globe, populations of scalloped and great hammerhead sharks have undergone dramatic declines in recent decades, ranging between 60 and 99%. The IUCN SSG has categorized these two hammerheads as globally endangered and the most threatened of the world’s highly migratory, pelagic and semi-pelagic sharks. Hammerheads have exceptionally valuable fins and are also taken for their meat, often as juveniles. One hammerhead shark generates over $80,000/year in Costa Rica’s Cocos Island National Park as a main dive attraction, and over $1.5 million during its lifetime (35 years), whereas a hammerhead shark purchased at the Costa Rican fish market will fetch about $200 for its fins and meat.
- The silky shark is commonly caught, often as bycatch, in high seas long line and purse seine fisheries. Global populations have been depleted with estimated losses of 90 percent or more in some regions.
- All three thresher species are classified by the IUCN SSG as Vulnerable, making this group among the most threatened shark families.