March 18th, 2013
Halifax, NS – After a week of negotiations in Bangkok, Thailand, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES) accepted the listing of five commercially important shark species under Appendix II. Among the shark species listed was the porbeagle, also known as ‘Canada’s shark’, as they spend the majority of their lives in Canadian waters. Canada supported the listing of porbeagle, however Canada remains the only country in the world to continue to allow a directed porbeagle fishery and lands more porbeagle as bycatch in non-direct fisheries than any other country.
In November 2012, a proposal was tabled at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which would ban the retention of any porbeagle caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, where populations have been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List for Threatened Species. Canada.
Before the meeting of ICCAT, a petition was launched asking Canada’s Fisheries Minister to support the proposal and end the retention of Canada’s shark. Over 20,000 people signed the petition and despite this, Canada asked to be granted an exemption to the proposal, stating that Canada’s porbeagle fishery is well-managed and sustainable despite the 100 year projected recovery time. This derailed negotiations and in the end, the proposal failed to pass.
“Canada is failing to be accountable internationally, and to its own citizens on this issue, says Shannon Arnold of the Ecology Action Centre. “The blocking of a decision at ICCAT and a failure to respond to the petition is truly baffling,”
The listing of porbeagle and other shark species under CITES Appendix II is a big win for the shark conservation movement and has the ability to have a large impact on the recovery of these shark.
“This is another indication that there is a global consensus on the serious threats these sharks are facing”, says Arnold. “We need to do everything possible to give them a fighting chance to recover.”
Listing of these species requires that exports of products derived from these species must be accompanied by proof that they are from a sustainable and legal source. By supporting the CITES listing but requesting an exemption to the ICCAT proposal, Canada has essentially cornered the market on an endangered species. They will likely be able to get an export certification for the porbeagle fishery which means that Canada will be the only country that is directly and legally fishing porbeagle in a manner that is acceptable for trade under Appendix II.
“It’s definitely a bit suspicious”, says Heather Grant also of the Ecology Action Centre. “The purpose of both the ICCAT proposal and the CITES listing were to protect an endangered species that is having trouble recovering from fishing pressures. So why support one and not the other unless there are some ulterior motives at play?”
In 2006, the porbeagle shark was denied protection under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) despite seeing declines of up to 88% since 1961 for fear of economic losses to the fishing industry.
“We are glad that Canada has supported the international regulation of trade of the porbeagle shark”, says Grant. “We hope that this will now be reflected by an increase in national efforts to conserve this shark and keep them off fishermen’s lines, rather than a push to increase the market for an endangered species.”
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