It’s a big week for sharks. The latest round of talks on international wildlife trade are being held in Bangkok right now. In the coming days delegates will consider proposals to protect hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, and porbeagles. Manta rays and some freshwater stingrays are also on the list.
The proposals are to list them all on Appendix II of CITES – this means international trade would continue but only under a permit system that should allow for only a sustainable level of trade (trade is banned for species on Appendix I).
This is by no means the first time attempts have been made to add sharks to CITES (the Convention on trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Sharks have been through several rounds of discussions in the past (featuring many of the same species proposed this time) but other than whale, great white and basking sharks, all have been rejected.
It will be fascinating – but probably frustrating – to see how the 2013 shark discussions unfold. At previous meetings, some of the key sticking points have been opposition from nations and organisations that believe shark management is the domain of regional fisheries management authorities and not international treaties like CITES. There have also been objections that the proposed species are not endangered enough and that even if they are, international trade is not the driving force behind their imperilled status.
I been involved in previous years in helping to gather all the available science to assess shark proposals so I know just how much effort goes into this process. I also know the uncomfortable feeling of letting go and sending that science into a challenging political arena. I can only hope the outcome of the process will be positive this time around for elasmobranch conservation.
If you want to keep an eye on what’s happening with sharks at CITES, various of our fantastic colleagues are on Twitter and will be live tweeting developments:
David Shiffman gives some more tips on how to keep in touch with shark discussions and decisions at CITES over at Southern Fried Science.