Today sharks and campaigners for their protection were afforded a massive victory. Currently there is an ongoing conference in Bangkok where CITES, the convention on international trade of endangered species, are trying to protect many types of animals and today was the shark and manta day.
Many shark species have seriously declined in the last two decades and campaigners have been trying to get sharks protected from at least 1994. The hammer head and oceanic whitetip are two species that have seriously suffered for the price of their fins and status symbol. The oceanic whitetip numbers have declined 93% between 1995 and 2010 and it is estimated that around 100 million sharks are killed every year.
Manta rays too have suffered, being prized for their gills in Chinese medicine. Around 5,000 a year a killed and considering the fact that they deliver only 1 pup every 2-5 years means their numbers are being seriously devastated.
Many countries, especially the Latin American countries, have begun to realise that sharks and rays are worth so much more to their tourism industry than their one time value of a fin or gills. The manta ray is worth $5 million a year when caught, something that can only happen once, whereas they are worth a staggering $140 million in tourism. And the more sharks and mantas you have, the more tourism. No one wants to go diving with sharks when you’re not going to see any because they’ve all been killed off.
Today however the oceanic whitetip, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, hammerhead shark, porbeagle and manta ray have all been moved from no protection to appendix II of the CITES regulations. This means that although they are not banned from being traded they now have to be seriously regulated. The counties exporting and importing them have to have licenses and if they overfish them they can be hit by serious sanctions by CITES. Although their is a big concern for the fisheries that they now won’t make enough money they were informed that extra money would be made available to help the poorer countries change their fishing practices.
The biggest winner today was the fresh water sawfish which is virtually extinct now. They are caught for their very valuable fins and saws plus their use in aquariums. The nations at CITES voted unanimously to move them to Appendix I which now bans them from any international trade.
Unfortunately these decisions could still be overturned in the final vote at the end of the conference. However the voting numbers look very positive with an average of 90 for passing the motions and 42 against. So better to keep your fingers crossed, just in case. Apparently there was applause and high fives in the voting room as the large number of voters for helping the sharks came in. I definitely would have been among them, and maybe doing a little victory dance in front of the Japan and China delegates!