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Oceans: Hammerhead sharks may get more protection

Scalloped hammerhead shark via Wikipedia and a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Costa Rica, Honduras propose listing scalloped hammerheads under interntational trade agreement

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Two Caribbean nations this week moved to try and protect threatened hammerhead sharks from overfishing under an international trade agreement.

Costa Rica and Honduras proposed listing scalloped hammerhead sharks under an appendix to to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), considered to be one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements. Regulation under the appendix ensures that trade is sustainable and legal. Appendix II covers species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but could become so unless trade is closely controlled.

The proposal was praised by the Pew Environmental Group, which has been working to promote marine conservation. Scalloped hammerheads are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are in high demand for shark fin soup and account for about 4 percent of all shark fins in international trade.

“It’s time for strong international protection for endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks,” said Maximiliano Bello, senior adviser to the Global Shark Conservation Campaign of the Pew Environment Group. “Other governments should join Honduras and Costa Rica in supporting a sustainable future for these sharks.”

Government delegates from the 175 CITES member countries, including Honduras and Costa Rica, will vote on the hammerhead proposal and other possible shark proposals at next year’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. During the March 3-15 meeting in Thailand, governments will determine the fate of scalloped hammerheads as well as many other threatened and potentially threatened species. The proposal also includes smooth and great hammerhead sharks because of their close resemblance to the scalloped hammerhead.

“The decision to propose a CITES Appendix II listing for these hammerhead species sends a significant conservation message and builds upon shark conservation efforts under way in Central America,” said Rigoberto Cuellar, the Honduran minister of natural resources and environment. “We hope that other countries will agree and will co-sponsor our proposal.”

“The time has come to regulate international trade of endangered hammerhead sharks,” said Ana Lorena Guevara, vice minister of environment for Costa Rica. “The loss of these top predators would be detrimental to the health of our oceans.”

CITES has protected more than 30,000 plants and animals against over-exploitation from international trade, historically focusing on land-based species. But in recent years the number of marine species proposed for protection has increased. Shark species currently protected include the whale shark, basking shark, great white shark, and sawfish.

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