Landmark shark ban upheld at conservation meeting

Three varieties of hammerhead will now be regulated under Cites for the first time, a move that campaigners say will help save the species Three varieties of hammerhead will now be regulated under Cites for the first time, a move that campaigners say will help save the species

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Pro-shark fishing nations have narrowly failed to overturn a landmark protection deal struck at the Cites conservation conference in Bangkok.

Japan and China tried to block trade regulations on three critically endangered shark species by re-opening the debate in the final session.

But delegates refused the request by a wafer-thin majority and the shark ban was upheld.

The decision is being seen as a landmark win for animal conservation.

Campaigners say it is a truly historic day for the species, in which science triumphed over politics.

On Monday, the decision to increase protection for oceanic whitetips, porbeagle and hammerhead sharks had only scraped past the two-thirds majorities required by a handful of votes.

Campaigners had been extremely worried that China and Japan, the main opponents of the measures, would be able to muster the one-third support needed to re-open the debate and block the ban.

In a tense session here in the conference centre, they failed by just over 1%.

'Major step'

UK environment minister David Heath, who had just arrived in Bangkok, told BBC News that this was a great day for the Convention.

"I’m absolutely delighted. I think this is a major step forward today. What we saw was member states across the board say 'we are not going to be diverted from our path'," he said.

Oceanic whitetip The oceanic whitetip is found in tropical and warm temperate seas

The proposals will not ban the fishing of these sharks but it will mean that for the first time, the international trade in them will be regulated.

Similar attempts at previous meetings of Cites had ended in failure. What seems to have made the difference here in Bangkok was the unity of Latin American nations, who all stood behind the proposals.

Hesiquio Benitez from the Mexican delegation told BBC News that this decision was good for sharks and for those communities that make their living from the sea.

"It's important to know that this is not prohibiting trade for domestic markets, it is not against the fisheries communities. It is to have more control, to have better assessments in the populations," he said.

Campaigners who had worked for decades to get these species listed in Appendix II of Cites said it was a landmark day.

The Appendix lists species which may become threatened with extinction unless trade is closely controlled.

"This is an historic day for marine conservation," said Glenn Sant from Traffic International.

"Shark populations are in freefall, but have been thrown a lifeline today - Cites has finally listened to the scientists," he said.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    As a scuba diver, it pains me to think of an ocean without sharks, whales, rays etc. They are the most beautiful, fascinating creatures by a mile. Swimming alongside something that could devour you in one bite is quite the experience! It's time locals realised that these creatures are worth much more alive than they are dead - in both a financial and cultural sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Lets hope there are draconian penalties for WHEN they ignore these bans, it is despicable in this day and age we are still acting like neanderthals and slowly destroying our planet and the creatures that make it tick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    This is a victory to be sure. However, it is going to be an empty one if this regulation is not policed, enforced and appropriately fined if violated. Has this been put in place I wonder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    So pleased to hear this news, we are loosing species at an alarming rate and have lost most of our big fish over the last century. A huge thank you to those amoung us who persevere for the evolution of humanity as a whole and see its because of the animal kingdom and nature to why we are here. We are here to tender the garden, not destroy it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Look, its all very well to take the moral high ground. But the real people affected here are those that rely on the trade to make an honest days living, probably a trade that has been in their family for generations.
    If the world banned you from doing the job you do today, what would you do instead? Would you be happy about it? How would you support your family?


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