Monday, 11 March 2013

Shark Fishing : Experiments in Mega Death || CITES grants sharks protection


Delegates at the CITES conservation meeting in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, have voted to extend protection under Appendix II  to all three species of hammerhead sharks, the porbeagle shark, the oceanic white tip shark, and manta rays. This represents a decisive step in the right direction in terms of limiting commercialization and trade of these hard pushed sharks and their relatives, the rays. 


When I discovered sharks in the South Pacific in the nineties, you could still meet white tipped oceanic sharks exploring outside the reef, and when I asked a dive master about them being finned, he said, so what? They are among the most abundant animals on the planet. Not any more. While I was there they vanished, and the dolphins and reef sharks once preyed upon by the oceanic sharks no longer appeared with shark-bite scars, and increased in number. And the reef sharks were fished beginning in 2003.  Those are the most remote islands in the pacific, so if the pelagic species are gone from there, they are likely not more numerous closer to the continents. Asian divers say it is hard to find sharks in Asia, there are problems with the finning of the sharks off Africa, and the same story is echoed around the globe by eye-witnesses on location. 


In the Mediterranean Sea, in the heart of Europe, scientific analysis of available data indicates that formerly common sharks have declined by 99.9 percent, and in other large oceanic regions such as the Gulf of Mexico, sharks have been depleted to a similarly tiny fraction of their pre-industrial level.

Looking out across the planet, the loss of sharks compares with the loss of buffalo from the American plains but on a global scale, a daunting loss of life that no one in their right mind would consider normal or sustainable. Imagine seeing only a few birds where once you saw clouds of birds filling the skies. That is the kind of loss the accessable free swimming species of sharks have experienced. 

Thank you to the delegates at CITES for taking this much needed step!

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