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Countries agree to protect several sharks and rays

Shared from the 8/26/2019 The Denver Post eEdition

WORLD WILDLIFE CONFERENCE By Maria Cheng and Jamey Keaten
The Associated Press

GENEVA» Countries have agreed to protect more than a dozen shark species at risk of extinction, in a move aimed at conserving some of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures who have themselves become prey to commercial fishing and the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup.

Three proposals covering the international trade of 18 types of mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfishes each passed with a needed two-thirds majority in a committee of the World Wildlife Conference known as CITES on Sunday.

“Today we are one step closer to protecting the fastest shark in the ocean, as well as the most threatened,” said Jen Sawada, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ shark conservation work. The measures don’t ban fishing these sharks and rays, but any trade must be sustainable.

The move isn’t final but is a key sign before an official decision at its plenary this coming week.

Conservationists applauded and exchanged hugs after the tallies. Opponents variously included China, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand. The U.S. voted against the mako shark measure, but supported the other two.

Critics variously argued that the measures distanced CITES from its initial mandate to protect endangered land animals and plants, not marine life, and insisted the science didn’t back up the call to increase protections. They also noted that millions of Mako sharks exist and even the CITES secretariat advised against the protections.

But proponents countered that stocks of sharks are in a deep dive, with tens of millions killed each year, and that measures need to be taken now — with what they call some of the most significant rules ever adopted for trade in shark parts.

Rima Jabado, a shark expert and lead scientist of the Gulf Elasmo project, said many of the species included in the CITES proposals are classified as “critically endangered.” Jabado said there has been an 80% decline in the number of wedgefishes, based on available data.

Makos are the world’s fastest sharks, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph. But they often get caught up in the nets of fishing trawlers hunting for tuna.

Several countries with large fishing fleets, including Japan, opposed the measure to protect mako sharks.

“Japan has been highly dependent on (live) marine resources from the ancient times,” said Hideki Moronuki, director of fisheries negotiations at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. “It’s very, very important for us in Japan to sustainably use all those marine riches,” he said.

 

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