Circling around trade regulations for sharks

16 March 2010 | News story

Much anticipated discussions about shark fisheries and trade began in earnest today at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar. On the table are proposals to tighten regulations on the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus).

The proposal is to include the two commercially valuable species in Appendix II, one of three CITES lists, which includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but for which trade must be controlled in order to avoid threats to their survival. The Parties to the conference will vote on four proposals that would add eight more shark species - spiny dogfish, porbeagle, oceanic whitetip, three types of hammerheads, sandbar, and dusky sharks - to Appendix II, bringing them in line with controls for three other shark species, the basking, whale and white.

The spiny dogfish is on the menu at fish and chip shops in the UK, often appearing under the name of Rock Salmon. It’s one of the slowest growing sharks on earth and, if left in its natural state, is one of the most abundant. This abundance led to overfishing, which has been the species downfall. Fisheries tend to target schools of mature females because they grow larger than males but this has spelled disaster for spiny dogfish populations. The spiny dogfish is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The porbeagle shark is also a slow growing species. It’s traded globally and is a particular favourite in French cuisine. Its large fins are frequently found in the global shark fin market. Overfishing has led to serious declines in population numbers. Porbeagle sharks are classified as threatened on the Red List. The species is Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic and Vulnerable globally.

Today Parties considered a document prepared by the CITES Animals Committee, aimed at improving existing agreed measures for shark data collection and management through a variety of national and international actions. 52 Parties voted to adopt the document while 36 voted against and 11 Parties abstained. Having failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote majority, the document was officially rejected. Nevertheless, the existing measures are still in place and there’ll be one more opportunity for Parties to revisit the proposed improvements in Plenary sessions next week.

Debate on the shark listing proposals is expected to begin early next week.

IUCN media team:

Nicki Chadwick, Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e. nicki.chadwick@iucn.org
Brian Thomson, Media Relations Manager, m +41 79 721 8326, brian.thomson@iucn.org