Porbeagle as bycatchBRUSSELS (BELGIUM)- Indonesia and India account for more than a fifth of global shark catches, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, which published a report Into The Deep today. 

The two countries were named as the world’s biggest catchers of sharks in an EU-backed probe into implementing a new pact to protect seven threatened species of sharks and rays. They head the list of 20 countries that together account for nearly 80 per cent of total shark catch reported between 2002 and 2011.

The others, in descending order, are Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Yemen.

The study, Into the deep: Implementing CITES measures for commercially-valuable sharks and manta rays was commissioned by the European Commission and written in the wake of the shark and manta ray species being listed within the Appendices of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) at a meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, in March this year.

Oceanic Whitetip shark
They include the Oceanic Whitetip shark, Porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead shark (Scalloped, Great and Smooth) and manta rays, all of them subject to continued over-exploitation. The species are all slow growing, late to mature and produce few young, making them highly susceptible to over-fishing.

“There was great elation when these sharks and manta rays were listed in CITES this March, but although it was a significant moment for the conservation world, now comes the task of making these listings work in practice as time is running out for some of these species,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Marine Programme Leader.

“CITES listings do not take away the need for comprehensive fisheries management, they represent one critical part of that management through aiming to control trade and prevent international trade in products of these species being sourced from unsustainable or illegal fisheries.”

Sharks and rays
Mr Hugo Schally, Head of Unit in the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission said: “This report provides a comprehensive picture of the situation of the sharks and rays listed at the last CITES Conference of the Parties as well as of the challenges ahead to ensure that international trade in those species becomes sustainable.

“It also shows that many countries and stakeholders are working together and planning joint activities to ensure proper implementation of the CITES shark and ray listings.

“This information will prove very useful to the EU which granted €1.2 Million to the CITES secretariat to carry out a capacity-building programme specifically targeted at countries involved in the harvest of and trade in CITES-listed sharks and rays.”

The new listings have been delayed coming into effect until 14th September 2014, to give CITES Parties adequate time to prepare for their implementation, including guidance for range States on how to determine what levels of trade are sustainable for the species concerned—a requirement under CITES for trade to be permitted.

Catch and population
The study revealed a lack of basic information on the levels of catch and population status of the newly listed marine species, with an urgent need to improve the identification of species in trade, reporting of their trade and for further research, assessment and monitoring to determine the impacts of trade on populations.  The study also highlighted the need to ensure domestic regulatory frameworks and administrative structures are adequate to support the implementation of CITES trade controls.

The study also examined the very different dynamics influencing the trade in the species concerned—the manta rays are chiefly traded for their gill rakers, used in traditional Asian medicines, while Porbeagle is mainly caught for its meat, hammerhead sharks caught both for local consumption of their meat and international trade in their fins and the larger Oceanic Whitetip caught for its highly valued fins, destined for markets in East Asia, particularly Hong Kong.

Some of the species examined are specifically targeted by fishing operations, while others are a secondary, but valuable, catch when targeting other species such as tuna. Given the different markets involved in the trade and uses involved, this creates highly complex trade chains which the new study attempts to unravel.

Read more at the website of Traffic.