Breakthroughs in Global Protection From Trade for Mako Sharks and Giraffes

Short Fin Mako Shark    Photo: copyright Brian Skerry, National Geographic

Delegates from around the world came to the defense of one of the most critically endangered marine species — the mako shark (often targeted for shark fin soup) — moving ahead a global trade ban for final consideration by the U.N. body that deals with trade in endangered species despite opposition to the ban by Japan, Canada, and the United States.  Final approval of the ban is expected later this week.

  • The meeting of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species currently taking place in Geneva marks a key turning point in which developed and developing nations agreed to limit trade commercially valuable species like the mako shark, even as more powerful nations opposed them.

And the iconic giraffe, whose numbers have been “silently” plummeting, also won protection from trade at the meeting.

Why This Matters:  I (Monica) remember less than 10 years ago when the U.S. under the Obama Administration fought hard at CITES to protect sharks but lost — some opposing delegates actually stood on their chairs and applauded when the U.S. proposal was defeated.  This year, in a turnabout, U.S. was defeated again — but this time the sharks won handily (102-40) in a secret ballot vote — thanks to well organized global efforts by NGOs and the governments of more progressive nations like Mexico, the sponsor of the shark proposal.  The U.S. did support the giraffe trade ban, but the Fish and Wildlife Service is still mulling a proposal to list them as endangered in the U.S. and the government has just weakened domestic protections for all species protected by the domestic Endangered Species Act.  Fortunately, other countries are leading on conserving species and this is good news going into next year’s Convention on Biodiversity meeting where there will be efforts to pass a resolution to protect thirty percent of the globe for nature by 2030.  

Sharks Under Threat From Fishing

According to National Geographic, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature “recently declared both species of mako sharks to be endangered globally and shortfin mako to be critically endangered in the Mediterranean, citing an estimated 50 to 79 percent population decline over three generations, or about 75 years.”

  • They’re often targeted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup …Their meat is more edible compared to that of other sharks, which is often acidic and is usually sold as a byproduct of the fin trade for ‘pennies on the dollar,'” Shawn Heinrichs, founder of the ocean conservation organization Blue Sphere Foundation told National Geographic.

Giraffes Are More Widely Traded Than Many Realize

The International Fund for Animal Welfare examined the government’s database on wildlife imports and found that between 2006 and 2015, 39,516 giraffe specimens, including dead and live animals, as well as their parts or derivatives, were imported into the US. This includes 21,402 bone carvings, 3,008 skin pieces, and 3,744 hunting trophies.

  • Matt Collis, IFAW Director, International Policy, described the vote as “a big conservation win for giraffes. It was vital that this species was listed by CITES because up to now it has been impossible to say for certain how much of the giraffe’s huge population decline is due to trade.”

Photo: Kruger National Park

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