Cites boosts shark protection

Cites boosts shark protection

5 species added to watch list in bid to curb finning

Five shark species have been put on a protection list to prevent them from being wiped out due to high demand for their fins.

Dried sharkandshark fins are displayed at a restaurant in Siam Square. Thailand opposed movesto register certainsharks as protected species during the ongoing Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (Cites) meeting in Bangkok. PATIPAT JANTHONG

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) Monday voted to control exports of the shark species, but stopped short of a full ban.

The majority of the 178 governments that are members of the convention voted to add the oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle shark and three species of hammerhead sharks to Appendix II of Cites.

Appendix II requires countries to regulate trade of a species by issuing export permits to ensure their sustainability in the wild. Failure to comply can result in sanctions.

Members have 18 months to introduce the trade controls required under Appendix II.

The proposal to upgrade the status of these sharks to protected species was submitted by Brazil, Colombia and the US.

Thailand supported the listing of the three hammerhead shark types as protected species, but opposed the inclusion of the porbeagle shark on the list and abstained from voting on the status of the oceanic whitetip shark.

The change in status of the hammerhead sharks would not affect Thailand as they live in deep water and so are rarely caught by Thai fishermen, according to the Department of Fisheries.

The department earlier raised concerns that putting the sharks on the protection list could land fishermen in trouble as they might unintentionally catch the fish and be punished for it.

Cites members yesterday also voted 96 to 23 to restrict international trade in manta rays.

Bangkok supported the inclusion of the fish in Appendix II, despite the country's concerns about the negative impact it would have on the local ornamental fish breeding industry. Three of the four manta ray species proposed for protected listing are popular among Thai breeders.

The decision to add the species to Appendix II must still be formally approved by the conference's plenary session, to be held on Wednesday and Thursday. At the plenary session Thailand plans to ask Cites members to re-vote on its proposal to downgrade the protected status of saltwater crocodiles and Siamese crocodiles.

Both species of crocodiles are included in Cites' Appendix I, which covers species under the threat of extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is only permitted in rare, exceptional circumstances.

Thailand has proposed downgrading them to Appendix II, hoping it would boost the business of the country's crocodile farmers. The proposal was rejected by Cites last Friday.

Wimol Jantrarotai, chief of the Department of Fisheries, yesterday said the department had invited delegates from 16 nations which abstained or opposed the proposal to a briefing to gain their support. "We need only 10 more votes to succeed," he said.

Crocodile farms actually help increase the crocodile population in the wild because the farms collaborate with wildlife agencies to release the animals into their natural habitat, he said.

Yosapong Tensiripong, representative of the Crocodile Cooperatives of Thailand, expressed his confidence that the country would gain a vote on the crocodile issue by winning the support of Japan. Bangkok earlier backed Tokyo's stance on the oceanic whitetip shark by abstaining from the vote.

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