San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Conservationists achieve win in South Korea

A motion that calls on all nations to support the inclusion of hammerhead sharks in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade on Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will face a decisive vote in Bangkok next March. The motion was passed during a recent members’ assembly at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), held in Jeju, South Korea, last week.

The motion is a win for conservationists seeking stricter controls to prevent the international trade of shark fins, a cause that was dealt a series of blows by the U.N.’s wildlife trade body at the CITES meeting in Doha in 2010. The international trade body rejected proposals to oversee transnational commerce regarding endangered sharks, and only granted protection to one news species of shark.

“Costa Rica is committed to the conservation of this emblematic marine species, and we are carrying out all efforts possible to guarantee effective protection from the negative effect generated by the overfishing of this species to supply the demand by international shark fin markets,” said Guido Chaves of Costa Rica’s Environment Ministry, a co-sponsor of the motion.

The appetite for shark fin soup in many Asian countries is responsible for the increasing endangerment of various populations of hammerhead sharks. The hammerhead is now classified as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

“Fortunately, the members assembly massively supported the motion, showing that the future of hammerhead sharks is a global concern,” said Randall Arauz, president of the Marine Turtle Restoration Program, a Costa Rican marine conservation group and co-sponsor of the motion.

Major fishing nations are likely to oppose the measure in March.

“Now comes the hard part, obtaining an Appendix II listing for hammerhead sharks in CITES,” said Alejandra Pacheco of MarViva Foundation, a Latin American organization that also co-sponsored the motion. “The support of the members’ assembly is an important recognition of our efforts, and we trust that it will help achieve the desired restriction on the international trade of hammerhead shark fins in the near future.”

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