Five shark species won international trade protection Monday in a move hailed as a breakthrough in efforts to save the world’s oldest predator from extinction due to rampant demand for its fins.
Rather than a complete ban, the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to restrict cross-border trade in the oceanic whitetip, the porbeagle and three types of hammerhead sharks, proposed by Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica, among other countries.
The deal, which must still be formally approved by the CITES plenary session, delighted conservationists who warn that Asia’s voracious appetite for shark fins is causing their population to plunge.
Under the CITES framework, a party may ask to reopen the discussion at the plenary session, as happened in 2010 when an initial agreement to control international trade in the porbeagle was later overturned.
Monday’s deal would require countries to regulate trade by issuing export permits to ensure their sustainability in the wild, otherwise they could face sanctions by members of CITES, a global treaty which protects some 35,000 species.
Those wishing to fish for the fins of these species will now have to clear a more stringent permit system to export the fins, a long-awaited victory for conservationists, who were previously opposed on the matter by shark-fin soup supporters in China and Japan.
More than 100 million sharks are killed each year, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.