Earlier this week, delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Thailand voted in favor of adding five species of sharks, manta rays, and freshwater sawfish to the list of animals whose international trade is prohibited or sharply restricted.
This decision is a "major breakthrough for marine conservation" according to observers around the world. Many of the world's 500 shark species are being overfished, primarily due to the growing demand for shark fin soup. Recent studies suggest that commercial fishing kills 100 million sharks per year and several species are now dangerously close to extinction. And a vast, but unknown, number of these sharks are discarded overboard once their fins are removed.
Shark fins drying out on roof in Hong Kong.
By Paul Hilton/ Mission Blue
New CITES protections are a big win for sharks and productive ocean ecosystems. As apex predators, sharks are crucial to maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Sharks thrive in areas free from fishing, and in protected areas like the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, their abundance is extraordinarily high, giving scientists new insights into what are natural states of ecosystems. Today many nations have established Shark Sanctuaries in recognition of their important role and value to local economies. One of the largest is in Palau. Established in 2001 and covering 230,000 sq. miles, it protects 130 species of sharks. Many other countries have followed suit, but these sanctuaries don't necessarily mean that sharks are effectively protected.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated
) fishing is a huge, ongoing problem for sharks. And even in the United States, where individual states are working to reduce threats to sharks, they face an uphill battle. Earlier this year a Massachusetts-based non-profit representing the New England Atlantic spiny dogfish shark processors has filed a brief in a legal case
challenging California's law banning the sale and transport of shark fins.
Clearly there is more work needed to ensure a healthy future for sharks and the ecosystems that sustain them. Your donations will help support our Marine Protected Area efforts, and our policy work to curb IUU fishing.