Shark Protections Target Hammerheads, White Tips

At least 37 countries, including the United States and Mexico, have proposed protections for ten shark and ray species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The U.S. will join Colombia in leading an effort to secure trade measures for the oceanic whitetip shark. In cooperation with at least five other countries and the European Union, Mexico is pursuing protections for three species of hammerheads.  Other species proposed by various CITES Parties include the porbeagle shark, both manta rays, and three freshwater stingrays.

All of these proposals target listing on CITES Appendix II, which would prompt permits to ensure international trade is legal and sustainable, as a complement to fisheries management.  CITES Parties will debate and vote on listing proposals in March 2013 in Bangkok.

"International trade is a major driver for shark fisheries around the world, and yet controls on this exploitation are woefully insufficient," said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates. "We are grateful for continued U.S. leadership in addressing international shark trade, and welcome this unprecedented number of proposals to safeguard these vulnerable species under CITES."

Hammerhead fins are valuable for use in a traditional, celebratory Chinese soup. Scalloped, great, and smooth hammerheads have been proposed for CITES listing. Scalloped and great hammerheads are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as globally Endangered. Proponents joining Mexico include Brazil, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Honduras, and the 27 Member States of the EU.

"Hammerhead sharks are among the most threatened of the wide-ranging sharks, due largely to the high demand for their fins," said Rebecca Regnery, Deputy Director for Wildlife at Humane Society International. "We are particularly pleased that Mexico, an influential shark-fishing nation, has joined the effort to conserve hammerheads through CITES with this strong proposal."

The oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, both manta rays, and the smooth hammerhead are listed by IUCN as globally Vulnerable.  The freshwater stingrays are considered Data Deficient.

Porbeagles are prized for meat as well as fins.  Manta rays are increasingly targeted for their gill rakers, which are used in Chinese medicine.  Freshwater stingrays are traded for display in aquariums.

The porbeagle proposal comes from the EU and is cosponsored by Brazil, Comoros, and Egypt.  Ecuador has put forth the mantas while Colombia has proposed the freshwater stingrays.

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