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A Dark Day for Dogfish: CITES Fails to Safeguard Sharks from Unsustainable Trade

The Hague 15.06.07: The Shark Alliance is expressing deep dismay over today’s defeat of a European Union (EU) proposal to limit international trade in imperiled spiny dogfish sharks through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The proposal had failed narrowly in a CITES Committee last week, but was brought back for reconsideration today in the CITES Plenary. After a week of intense lobbying on both sides, the dogfish proposal again fell short of the required two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

“We are deeply dismayed that this exceptionally vulnerable and heavily traded shark species has been denied the global safeguards that are so urgently warranted,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director. “It is now up to fishing nations to compensate for this failure by restricting regional fishing to ensure that international demand for spiny dogfish does not result in further population depletion.”

Many countries opposing the EU CITES listing proposals for sharks expressed concern over lacking shark fishery management in European waters and used this as a reason to vote against the listings. While domestic failings should not excuse denying global action, EU spiny dogfish quotas are indeed out of line with the scientific advice for no fishing. During the debates, EU representatives underscored previous commitments to development of an EU shark plan by 2008.

“The upside of this roller coaster ride is the enhanced global awareness of the plight of sharks,” added Fordham. “We welcome the widespread recognition, by the EU and other countries, that national and international shark conservation measures are urgently needed to recover spiny dogfish populations and prevent depletion of other species. It is imperative that the EU complete its overdue shark management plan, as a matter of priority, and that CITES continues its work to highlight, and consider trade limitations for vulnerable shark species.”

Spiny dogfish are exported from all corners of the globe to satisfy European demand for fish and chips and smoked belly flaps. Populations have been seriously depleted by poorly regulated fisheries that often target pregnant females. The IUCN (World Conservation Union) classifies spiny dogfish as globally Threatened, Endangered in the Northwest Atlantic and Critically Endangered off Europe.

The EU, Canada, the US, Norway, and New Zealand have dogfish fisheries; the US supported the EU listing proposal while Canada, Norway, New Zealand, along with Japan, China, and Argentina worked hard to kill it.

A similar EU proposal to list porbeagle sharks under CITES also failed in Committee last week.


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