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Sharks Spark Global Protection Plan


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Posted by on February 22, 2010 at 22:20:03:

A milestone agreement was reached Friday 12 February that will affect the future of sharks everywhere. The Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is a treaty administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and was signed by delegates from 113 countries in efforts to conserve threatened and endangered migratory sharks, many species of which have suffered drastic declines in recent years.

Seventeen percent of world's 1,044 shark species are threatened with extinction, according to the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and at present our knowledge is too limited to even begin assessing the population status of about 47 percent of shark species. UNEP cited studies which showed that shark populations have collapsed both in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Mediterranean Sea by 90 percent and by 75 percent in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean within the past 15 years.

These collapsed shark populations are mainly a result of the human appetite for shark meat and shark fin soup. In every year of the last 2 decades, 900,000 tons of sharks have been caught, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization; and the actual catch is estimated to be at least twice as high, if missing data, illegal and unregulated shark fishing is taken into account.

Seven shark species were included in the agreement - the great white, basking, whale, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, shortfin and longfin mako sharks. By signing the agreement, the delegates recognized that sharks are at risk of over-fishing, by-catch, illegal trade, habitat destruction, depletion of prey species, pollution with a high risk of mercury poisoning, boat strikes and the impact of climate change on the marine environment. They also discussed a management plan that would serve as a first step towards international cooperation on shark protection.

Australia, however, has drawn some concern due to the country’s decision to not provide CMS treaty protection for the porbeagle, shortfin mako, and longfin mako species. Instead, they’ve claimed they will pass a law to remove these shark species from the Australian list of protected species. Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett claims there is a "lack of evidence suggesting that Australian populations of these shark species face the same threats as other parts of the world." In a reply to Garrett’s statements, Glenn Sant, who serves as Global Marine Programme leader of TRAFFIC and a Vice-Chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group said "We are deeply concerned that the Australian Government has decided not to offer these species any increased protection despite the fact that they have been internationally listed under the CMS and recognized as globally ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List." For more details on this agreement, see the Environment News Service’s 17 February article: www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2010/2010-02-17-01.html.



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