World Conservation Trust
Shark Issues at COP12
by Grahame J.W. Webb
S. Charlie Manolis
and Barry Brook
Excerpts from Listing Sharks and other Commercial Fisheries Species on CITES
At COP12, it is proposed to list the two largest
species of shark [whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and basking shark (Cetorhinus
maximus)] on Appendix II (CoP12 Prop. 12.35 and 12.36 respectively).
Similar proposals were made at CoP11 (Nairobi, 2000), but failed to win the
two-thirds majority vote required. The basking shark was listed on Appendix
III by the UK, with Japan and Norway entering reservations.
Proponents of the two proposals, and of other supporting documents (eg
CoP12 Doc. 41.1 and 41.2), clearly believe the species meet the criteria
for Appendix II, and that CITES is an appropriate forum for regulating
international trade in these species. This view is one generally supported
by NGOs with preservationist leanings.
Opponents remain concerned that neither of the shark species meet the
intent of Article II of the Convention, nor the current criteria for
listing (Resolution Conf. 9.24). Even if they did meet the criteria for
listing, they consider that this reflects problems with the criteria. They
consider CITES in its current form is not an appropriate forum for managing
commercial fisheries (eg CoP12 Doc. 16.2.1 and 17; see later). This view is
one generally supported by NGOs with sustainable use leanings.
Proponents and opponents, including NGOs, are all aware of the
"thin edge of the wedge" scenario. The possibility that if these
two charismatic shark species were listed on Appendix II, a precedent for
listing many other related species would be created, and/or various avenues
would be opened for banning trade under international law. In this regard,
the experience with hawksbill turtles fuels concerns.
The conservation, management and sustainable use of sharks is clearly a
complex resource issue, in which the goals of conservation and economic
development are in conflict to varying degrees. There would seem little
doubt that the wrong decisions could impact seriously on the livelihoods of
perhaps millions of fishermen around the world.