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March 23, 2010

Porbeagle Shark Gains Protection From International Trade

DOHA, Qatar — Humane Society International representatives at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora praised member countries for accepting a proposal submitted by Palau and member states of the European Community to increase protection for porbeagle sharks. This United Nations treaty with 175 member countries is currently meeting in Doha, Qatar. This species is the very first commercially valuable sharks added to CITES in the treaty's more than 30-year history.

"A CITES Appendix II listing is a valuable tool for helping to reverse the continued depletion of these vulnerable sharks," said Rebecca Regnery, deputy director of wildlife for The Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society International. "It requires countries to collect and provide data on shark exports to ensure that they are not over-exploiting these species to meet the demand for international trade."

Porbeagles are large sharks that live in cooler waters worldwide. They are caught for their meat and their fins, both of which fetch high prices on the international market. This demand has led to alarming declines in their populations. Between 1961 and 2008 the Southwest Atlantic stocks of porbeagles declined by 82 percent. Northeast Atlantic populations fared even worse, with a 99 percent decline in the Danish fishery between 1954 and 2007 and a 96 percent decline in the Norwegian fishery in the period between 1973 and 2007.

The HSUS has submitted a formal petition to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to list the porbeagle shark as endangered under the federal Endangered Species and has requested that porbeagle sharks be listed as a prohibited species under the Magnusson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Unfortunately, another proposal submitted by the same countries for spiny dogfish sharks failed to be adopted earlier in the day, as did proposals for hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks submitted by Palau and the United States.

The porbeagle proposal was adopted in a vote of 86 in favor, 42 opposed and 8 abstentions. The spiny dogfish proposal was defeated in a vote of 60 in favor, 67 opposed and 11 abstentions. It is possible that these decisions may be reconsidered and reversed later this week as the meeting concludes.

Facts:

  • An Appendix II listing of these species promotes regional cooperation in the conservation of the species, and facilitates the gathering of trade data. The implementation of CITES control measures for the regulation and monitoring of international trade is consistent with the FAO International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
  • The 2009 IUCN Red List classifies the global porbeagle (Lamna nasus) population as Vulnerable. The species is also classified as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic and Near Threatened in the Southern Ocean.
  • Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are smaller sharks that also live in cooler waters worldwide and are caught primarily for their meat, which is often used in popular fish and chips dishes in Europe. It is also caught for its meat (which is called "Schillerlocken" in German) in other EU countries and in Japan. Oil, fins and hides are also subject to international trade. Fisheries for this species often target mature, and usually pregnant, females because they are larger than the males.  
  • In the Northwest Atlantic, mature female populations of spiny dogfish fell by 80 percent between 1990 and 1999. Research on the South American subpopulation in 2007 showed localized declines of up to 80 percent in some coastal areas.
  • The United States does not have a quota for spiny dogfish landings from the Pacific. The federal Atlantic spiny dogfish quota has been exceeded each year since 2007, and in the last fishing year, more than twice the federal quota was landed.  
  • The great white, basking and whale sharks were listed on CITES Appendix II in previous years.

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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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