Oceana warns CITES parties that global demand for shark fins is pushing species towards extinction
A new report by Oceana shows that in 2008, 87 countries exported nearly 10,000 tonnes of fins to Hong Kong, the biggest single market in the world, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to Oceana.
From March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar, countries from all around the world are attending the 15th CITES Conference of Parties. If supported by two-thirds the 175 parties present at the event, the proposals to protect 8 species of sharks would ensure the sustainable trade of products from these species. Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, urges the countries taking part in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to support the inclusion of the eight shark species under Annex II.
Rebecca Greenberg, spokesperson for the Europe shark campaign in Oceana, remarks, "Oceanic sharks are being hunted for their fins, driving species like hammerhead sharks to extinction. If we don't start to carefully regulate the trade of these species, we may face the disappearance of some shark species from our oceans."
As shown by Oceana in a new report, in 2008 nearly 10,000 tonnes of shark fins were imported into Hong Kong [i], the world's largest single market for this product. These fins came from 87 countries and regions around the world. The world's top exporters of shark fins to Hong Kong were Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. Greenberg continues, "It is important to note that many nations, specially some of the largest exporters of shark fins, support the CITES shark proposals. This demonstrates the growing worldwide awareness of the need to sustain our shark populations."
While sharks are commonly mistaken as man eating predators, it is really the human appetite for sharks that is disturbing our oceans. Each year, up to 73 million sharks that are vital to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems are killed each year to be turned into shark fin soup. This popular Chinese soup can coast 100 dollars per bowl and demand for it is escalating.
The following six species proposed for inclusion in CITES Appendix II are all facing high demand for their fins: oceanic whitetip sharks, scalloped hammerheads, smooth hammerheads, great hammerheads, dusky sharks and sandbar sharks. Two other species, the spurdog and porbeagle sharks, have also been proposed for inclusion on CITES Appendix II, particularly due to high demand of their meat, although their fins also enter international trade.
An Appendix II listing will ensure that international commercial trade is only authorized (via export permits) if the specimen was legally obtained and if the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.
Sharks are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they generally grow slowly and live long lives. Their relatively low reproductive rates mean their populations are slow to recover once overfished. The demand for shark fins is already decimating populations around the world. For example, the North Atlantic population of oceanic whitetips declined by an estimated 70 percent in the 1990s and scalloped hammerheads by 83 percent in the Northwest Atlantic since the 1980s.
The demand for shark fins is so high, and interest in shark meat so low, that it sometimes leads to shark finning, a wasteful and cruel practice in which the fins of a shark are cut off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water.