WWF and TRAFFIC: Sharks Take a Beating as CITES Turns Down Most Bids to Reel In Shark Overfishing

Porbeagle Sharks Get Limited Protections


WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2010 – Sharks got little respect today as governments at a United Nations meeting on wildlife trade voted against stronger international trade controls for five shark species, which are in severe decline because of overfishing for their high-value fins and meat. 

Delegates to the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted against proposals to list three hammerhead sharks (scalloped, great and smooth), the oceanic whitetip and the spiny dogfish on Appendix II of the Convention. A listing would have enforced better management of the fishery for international commercial trade and allow their declining populations to recover.

However, governments did vote to include the porbeagle shark – overfished primarily for its meat and fins – on Appendix II.

“Sharks may be fearsome creatures in the ocean but they were no match for uncontrolled, short-term economic interests that continue to devastate their populations around the world,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, World Wildlife Fund Director of Species Conservation. “This fight will continue. The vitality of our oceans, upon which millions of people depend, relies on healthy populations of species such as sharks and corals.”

Klenzendorf also commended the US government for proposing the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip proposals with Palau.

The proposals’ rejection follows the failure of other proposals at CITES last week to introduce stronger trade restrictions for red and pink corals, and an outright ban on the international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna – both despite overwhelming scientific evidence that additional protection for these species is needed.


“CITES has once again failed to listen to the scientists and failed to protect the marine environment. This is a catastrophic decision,” said Crawford Allan, Director of TRAFFIC – North America. “Populations of these sharks have declined by more than 90% in some areas, many of them caught illegally and destined to end up in the shark-fin trade. They are targeted because of their high value. The current level of trade in these species is simply not sustainable.”

The sharks discussed at today’s meeting are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they are all slow growing, late to mature, long-living and produce few young, which means it is difficult for populations to recover from overfishing.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a joint program of World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The 15th meeting of CITES governments began March 13 and ends on Thursday, and will consider proposals related to dozens of species and species trade issues.

WWF is the world’s leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.   

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint program of IUCN and WWF. Visit www.traffic.org to learn more.