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Great White Sharks Win International Protection From Ultimate Predator: Humans

Bangkok - The world's most-feared shark received international protection from human predators here today when the international community approved trade controls on great white sharks and shark parts at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

World Wildlife Fund praised the addition of great whites to CITES as a conservation boost for the ocean's largest predatory shark. The member nations of CITES voted Tuesday to include the shark on CITES's Appendix II, 87 to 34. Appendix II listing of a species allows international trade, but requires importing and exporting countries to ensure that trade is sustainable and legal.

"Despite their fierce reputation, great white sharks are naturally rare and vulnerable to overexploitation," said Ginette Hemley, vice president for species conservation at WWF. "Populations of great whites are in decline around the world because of unregulated fishing and high demand for curios like shark teeth and jaws, so this decision will help reduce a significant threat to the species globally."

The main cause of mortality for the species appears to be incidental killing as bycatch and entanglement in nets, but effective trade controls could help reduce continued population declines. Because the great white shark is a migratory species, international trade regulations will help protect it across its range.

The high value of sharks for curios and for their meat provides an incentive for fishers to actively target great white sharks - or to kill those that are accidentally caught and could otherwise be released alive.

"CITES controls should reduce the incentive to overfish great white sharks because exporting countries must now ensure that trade does not harm the species' survival," Hemley said. "WWF also urges all countries with shark populations to take additional action for the conservation of the species and address other threats - such as bycatch."

In addition to high demand for great white sharks for their meat, teeth and jaws, the species is also fished by some sport anglers as trophies.

Also on Tuesday, CITES approved regulating trade in humphead wrasse, a giant coral reef fish threatened by the luxury food trade in Asia. The wrasse is patchily distributed across the Indo-Pacific region.

"Humphead wrasse is a popular luxury item in restaurants in Hong Kong and China, and the trade is growing and unsustainable," said Karen Steuer, WWF senior policy adviser. "In most areas studied, populations are in decline - sometimes by up to 90 percent. Because they grow slowly and are often caught when they're too young to reproduce, they could soon be lost from some areas. This listing is crucial to protect the species from uncontrolled trade."