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Shark Conservation, an Uphill Battle

January 30, 2011

A new report by TRAFFIC has been released called The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction.  It provides a great example of how countries agree to one thing, and then pretty much do the opposite.

Ten years ago, members of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the UN FAO agreed to an international plan to conserve sharks.   This plan was the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks).   And though a voluntary agreeement, COFI membership includes the vast majority of fishing countries.

The TRAFFIC analysis reveals that this plan has failed.  Of the top 20 shark fishing countries, only 13 have national plans of action, as required, and the effectiveness of the plans is highly suspect.  As TRAFFIC writes:

“Overall, however, this and previous reviews of implementation of the IPOA-Sharks have found little evidence that the IPOA-Sharks has contributed to significantly improved shark conservation and management outcomes.”

The top 20 shark fishing countries were found to account for more than 640,000 tonnes annually, nearly 80% of total shark catch reported globally. The top 10, in descending order, are: Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, United States, Japan, and Malaysia.

Thankfully, recent progress has been made.  And just last week, in the Northern Mariana Islands (a U.S. territory), Governor Benigno Fitial signed into law a prohibition on the possession and sale of shark fins.  This makes it the U.S. territory to address the shark fin trade.

Here’s a good visual of the ugliness of shark finning, which often has the finned shark thrown back to drown:

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