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October 15, 2009

The HSUS and HSI Applaud Efforts to Increase Protection for Sharks

Humane Society International

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud the U.S. departments of Interior and Commerce for proposing international trade regulations to protect six shark species. The species are commonly exploited by the cruel and wasteful shark fin trade.

Proposals to add protection for oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerheads, smooth hammerheads, dusky and sandbar sharks will be considered at the upcoming meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2010 in Doha, Qatar.

"Shark fishing is largely unregulated, their populations are plummeting and the international shark fin trade plays a major role in this commercial killing," said Rebecca Regnery, deputy director of wildlife at Humane Society International. "If adopted, these proposals will result in better enforcement and a reduction in shark finning, which involves cutting off the fins and throwing the animal back in to the ocean to die."

Sharks are apex predator species and are crucial to the health of the oceans. They are being decimated each year, primarily to meet the demand for shark fin soup but also for their meat, skin and cartilage. Most shark species are slow to recover from over-exploitation due to late maturation, long gestation periods and small litter sizes. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are among the slowest to recover from over-fishing. Steep population declines in hammerhead species have been observed. These proposals, if adopted, would not ban international trade in these species but would instead help ensure that trade is properly regulated.

The oceanic whitetip shark is also experiencing significant declines and is one of the most common tropical species caught by tuna and swordfish fisheries. Due to low value of meat and high value of fins, these sharks are likely to be finned and discarded at sea.

These proposals join two other shark proposals being submitted by the European Union to protect porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks. Similar proposals were submitted by the EU at the last meeting of the CITES Parties in 2007 and came close to being adopted.

Three shark species — great white, whale and basking — are already listed on Appendix II of CITES. An Appendix II listing means that exports can only occur if the exporting country makes a scientifically-based finding that the export will not harm the survival of the species. Additional species can be added to a proposal if they or their parts are similar to those of another listed species. The United States proposal for scalloped hammerheads includes great hammerheads, smooth hammerheads, dusky and sandbar sharks under this criterion due to the similar size and shape of their fins.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at hsi.org. 

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