Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hell, No-Ha: Hammerheads and whitetip sharks suffer at hands of CITES delegates

Despite clear support from speakers on the floor here at CITES CoP15 in Doha, trade protection for hammerhead sharks was narrowly defeated (75 in favour, 45 against, 14 abstentions - just 5 votes shy of a 2/3rds majority!). Unbelievable. Let's remember that these amazingly distinctive and beautiful sharks are killed the world over to supply global - ie Chinese - demand for shark fin soup. They do not fall under the purview of any Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO). Hammerhead fins are some of the most valuable fins found on the global market - and according to the Pew Environment Group, comprise about 6% of the fins entering the HK market. Scientists have extrapolated from this data that 1.3 to 2.7 million hammerheads are killed for the fin trade. EVERY YEAR. No wonder Glenn Sant from TRAFFIC is calling this decision a "conservation catastrophe."

ICCAT, an RFMO that is supposed enforce measures for the conservation of sharks, while they target other species, said on the floor that "they have not adopted any specific conservation measures for hammerheads." Thanks for that clarification, ICCAT. We figured as much, given the poor state of these species. Time and again, opposing countries are playing the 'RFMO vs. CITES' card. CITES and other management bodies are not mutually exclusive. They are complementary.

Time and again, for red and pink corals and now for sharks (both proposed for Appendix II, meaning trade is ALLOWED but must be proven SUSTAINABLE. Sorry for the CAPS but I figure that if I keep writing it, people will actually start to understand it), countries are talking about the effect that a listing would have on local communities. By effects, I hope they mean ensuring livelihoods and sustainable management, like New Zealand pointed out in their absolutely cracking intervention. Sadly, they do not. Despite the fact that the majority of CITES listed species fall under Appendix II (meaning that every day, countries trade in App II species and address any implementation concerns), when it comes to marine species, opposing countries evoke the 'App II = a trade ban' card.

Finally, it wouldn't be a marine species proposal up for consideration without some input from the Libyan delegate. Today's offering: 'God only fears scholars.'

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