(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) – Continuing its longstanding strong support for the conservation of sharks, the United States voted for proposals by the European Union to list two commercially harvested shark species under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES).
Delegates to CITES’ 14 Conference of the Parties in The Hague narrowly failed to approve the proposals to impose trade restrictions on porbeagle sharks and spiny dogfish in votes on Friday. However, the proposals may be raised again in the plenary session this week. The United States will continue to support the proposals if this occurs.
“The United States has been a world leader in shark conservation and we believe it is important to continue to support proposals to protect sharks,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Todd Willens, the head of the U.S. delegation to the conference, which continues until June 15. “We are particularly pleased that representatives of the European Union have addressed our concerns that Europe develop a management plan for harvest of spiny dogfish in the North Atlantic and that the interests of U.S. fishermen be protected in international trade.”
“We now believe that the listing of the porbeagle shark and spiny dogfish under Appendix II will assist in the conservation of the species globally and will not unduly disadvantage the U.S. fishing community,” Willens said.
Populations of both shark species off the Atlantic Coast of the United States are managed by the both the U.S. government and the states and currently are healthy. Meanwhile populations in the north-eastern Atlantic have been significantly reduced by over-harvest.
Both porbeagle sharks and spiny dogfish are harvested for consumption as seafood, and spiny dogfish is the primary fish used in “fish and chips.” The support of the United States for the two proposals represents the first time that the United States has backed a CITES listing for marine species harvested for food.
CITES is an international agreement signed by 171 nations that is designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.
A CITES-regulated species may be included in one of three appendices to the Convention:
Appendix I includes species for which it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in Appendix-I species. Non-commercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species' survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of Appendix-I species.
Appendix II includes species for which it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits.
Appendix III includes species listed by a range country that requires the assistance of other parties to ensure that exports of their native species are legal. Permits are used to control and monitor trade in native species. Any CITES Party may place a native species in Appendix III.
If the proposals are passed, U.S. fisherman would still be able to sell their harvests to European and other nations; however, exports would have be accompanied by a permit affirming that the harvest was conducted in a manner not detrimental to the survival of the species.
The United States will use the 18-month implementation period to put in place a program to meet this requirement. Furthermore, the United States will work with the European Union to ensure that U.S. dogfish and porbeagle exports accompanied by the proper permits will be permitted timely access to the European market.