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Trade Convention Failing Sharks, says WWF/TRAFFIC

WASHINGTON – Two shark species highly prized for their meat and fins have not gained trade protection under CITES, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, say World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC.

The porbeagle shark is principally used for fresh, frozen and dried-salted meat across Europe and is eaten in restaurants in the United States where it is also a target for sport fishermen. Spiny dogfish is used in fish and chips in the UK, where it is often called “rock salmon” or “huss” and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany, called “Schillerlocken".  The United States has one of the biggest spiny dogfish fisheries in the world.

Both shark proposals had been submitted by Germany on behalf of the European Union for an Appendix II CITES listing that would impose more strict trade standards, but discussions at the CITES meeting today rejected the proposals. Although a majority of member countries supported the proposals, they were defeated by a blocking minority.

“The failure to afford these sharks the protection they need is a failure for the world’s oceans,” said Simon Habel, head of the U.S. delegation to CITES for World Wildlife Fund. “However, World Wildlife Fund welcomed the fact that the U.S. demonstrated leadership for shark conservation by supporting the proposal for spiny dogfish.”

The international trade of porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks is not controlled. As a result, populations have dramatically declined in the North Atlantic—by up to 95 percent for the spiny dogfish and 89 percent for the porbeagle, in the last ten and 40 years respectively.

“If CITES discards this opportunity, it may be the end of the line for these two sharks and a fatal recipe for some of the favourite seafood dishes of European consumers.” said Steven Broad, Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Three-quarters of the world’s commercial fish stocks are already over-exploited, fished right up to their limit or recovering from collapse.

Scientists recently discovered that 90 percent of the big predatory fish, such as sharks, have been stripped from the oceans by industrialized fishing vessels.

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For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

Editors Notes:

In the Hague, contact: Sarah Janicke at 202-415-8141.

The porbeagle shark is a powerful, medium-sized, highly migratory shark. There is international demand for, and trade, in its high-value meat and fins. It is also used in fertilizer.

Spiny dogfish is a slender, smaller sized white-spotted shark that grows to about one meter long and travels in schools. It is found in cool, coastal waters worldwide.