'Historic moment' for five shark species


The decision to regulate trade in five threatened shark species has been welcomed by conservationists.

According to a report by the BBC, the vote that the Oceanic whitetip, three varieties of hammerhead (Smooth, Scalloped and Great) and the Porbeagle should be moved to Appendix 2 was met by applause and high fives among campaigners at the Cites meeting in Bangkok.

The move means that although trade in the species won't be banned completely, those fishing for these sharks will require strictly controlled permits to export them and nations that take too many can be hit by sanctions.

Conservationists have been trying to get these sharks protected for almost 20 years, but Japan and China have always opposed the move.

Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International said the vote was a historic moment. "These highly traded, threatened shark species urgently need protection from the unsustainable trade that jeopardises populations, ecosystems, livelihoods, and ecotourism."

Experts say a critical factor in the decision to offer these species more protection is that nations are finally beginning to realise sharks have a 'tourist value' - they're worth far more alive than dead.

Extra money is to be made available to help poorer countries which may need to change their fishing practices.

The decision comes just days after a report that between 6.4% and 7.9% of all sharks are killed each year. The trade in shark fins is still a leading factor in their overfishing, and because sharks grow relatively slowly, maturing late in life and producing few offspring, there's little question that they are being caught faster than they can reproduce.

There is still a chance that the vote could be overturned on the final day of the meeting on March 14.

Update: China and Japan have failed in their attempts to block the decision to increase protection for five threatened shark species.

Campaigners had been concerned that the pro-shark fishing nations would be able to achieve enough support (one third) to re-open the debate and block the ban at the Cites conference in Bangkok.

According to the BBC, they failed by just over 1%, meaning the proposals will stand. 

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