International petition seeks to protect hammerhead sharks

Over 10,000 citizens from 118 countries signed a petition calling on the delegates participating in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, currently meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, to provide protection of hammerhead sharks from international trade by listing the species under Appenix II of the Convention, according to the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

The proposal was submitted by Costa Rica, Honduras and Brazil, and currently enjoys the support of Central America, most of South America, the United States and the European Union, said the local environmental group. At this moment, Latin American delegates are working hard to gain the support of African nations, it said. The Latin American region also seeks the listing in Appendix II of porbeagle sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and manta rays.

Currently, over 100 million sharks are globally sacrificed every year to supply the demand of shark fins in Asia, according to a recent study. The lack of controls has led to the dramatic depletion of shark populations. Hammerhead sharks are particularly sought due to the high quality of its fins, and declines in its population have been reported in the range of 90 percent or more. The listing of the species in Appendix II would not ban the commercial activity, but rather ensure that the products of this species come from legal and controlled fisheries that do not compromise its survival, said the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

Japan leads a block of Asian nations that seeks to avoid such controls, and through the secret vote mechanism hopes to derail the initiative and maintain this unsustainable extraction volume, the organization said.

“Hammerhead sharks migrate throughout the oceanic islands of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, where a large presence occurs of national and foreign vessels that carry out the unsustainable extraction of this species,” informed Randall Arauz, who serves as adviser to the Costa Rican delegation on marine species. “CITES promotes regional and international cooperation, ensuring the perpetuity of this species, which annually generates millions of US$ through non lethal activities such as ecotourism and diving.”

Arauz is associated with the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

The hammerhead shark vote is expected to take place today, but could be delayed until Monday, the organization said.

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