The Beacon

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U.S. Coast Guard Captures Illegal Fishermen in Texas

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery

Following Oceana’s newly released report on the harmful impacts of illegal fishing, one of the questions that I as Oceana's Northeast representative was asked most often was, “Where is this happening?”  The short answer: Illegal fishing happens everywhere, from the most distant waters near Antarctica to just off the U.S. coast.


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Great Shark News from Delaware and Abroad

Oceanic whitetip stands to benefit from new regulations. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This week brought great news for shark populations that are dwindling both in U.S. waters and worldwide. Today, the Delaware House of Representatives introduced a bill prohibiting the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fins within the state. If passed, House Bill 41 would make Delaware the first East Coast state to pass a ban on the shark fin trade, following in the footsteps of Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii and Illinois.

Current federal law prohibits shark finning in U.S. waters, requiring that sharks be brought into port with their fins still attached.  However, this law does not prohibit the sale and trade of processed fins that are imported into the country from other regions that could have weak or even nonexistent shark protections in place.

This unsustainable catch is driven by the demand for shark fins, often used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, and kills millions of sharks every year. Delaware’s bill would close the loopholes that fuel the trade and demand for fins, and ensure that the state is not a gateway for shark products to enter into other U.S. state markets.  

Not only was there great news coming out of the U.S., international shark lovers have reason to celebrate as well. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), voted this week to place stricter regulations on the trade of manta rays, three species of hammerheads, oceanic whitetip and porbeagle sharks, acknowledging that these species are in dire need of protection.  When countries export these species, they are required to possess special permits that prove these species were harvested sustainably.  This decision will greatly curb illegal overfishing and reduce the numbers of endangered sharks killed globally.


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So Far, Fantastic News for Sharks and Mantas at CITES

The Scalloped Hammerhead nears protection. Photo: wikimedia commons

History was made today in Bangkok, when Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) voted to protect five species of sharks and two species of manta rays. The seven protected species are: oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead (S. mokarran), smooth hammerhead (S. zygaena), oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) and reef manta ray (M. alfredi).

All seven species are considered threatened by international trade – the sharks for their fins, and the manta rays for their gills, which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. CITES protection is an important complement to fisheries management measures, which, for these species, have failed to safeguard their survival.  

The vote was to list the animals for protection under Appendix II which does not entail a ban on the trade, but instead means that trade must be regulated. Exporting countries are required to issue export permits, and can only do so if they can ensure that they have been legally caught, and that their trade is not detrimental to the species’ survival.

All of the proposals received the two-thirds majority needed to be accepted – but the listing is not yet final. Decisions can be overturned with another vote during the final plenary session of the meeting, which wraps up on Thursday. This is what happened with porbeagle sharks in the 2010 CITES meeting in Qatar – an Appendix II listing approved by the Committee evaporated with another vote in plenary. As a result, at that meeting, none of the proposed shark species were granted protection. Now, three years later, we’re hopeful that the international community finally sees the importance of regulating the trade that puts these animals at risk.

Keep your fingers crossed!


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The Scanner: Moving Forward Edition

Happy Friday, everyone.

It's been a rough few weeks for the oceans at CITES, but now it's time to pick up the pieces. If CITES taught us anything, it's that the work of the ocean conservation community is more important than ever.

This week in ocean news,

....Rick at Malaria, Bed bugs, Sea Lice and Sunsets discussed one of the more shady aspects of CITES: the secret ballots, which were invoked for votes on bluefin tuna, sharks, polar bears, and deep water corals.

…The Washington Post reported that Maryland is cracking down on watermen who catch oysters in protected sanctuaries or with banned equipment. Once a principal source of oysters, the Chesapeake now provides less than 5 percent of the annual U.S. harvest.

…For the first time, scientists were able to use videos to observe octupuses’ behavioral responses. The result? The octupuses had no consistent reaction to one film -- in other words, they had no “personality.” Curiously, other cephalopods display consistent personalities for most of their lives.

…The New York Times wondered if the 700,000 saltwater home aquariums in the United States and the associated trade in reef invertebrates are threatening real reef ecosystems.


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Sights on CITES: The Bitter End

This is the ninth in a series of dispatches from the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar.

As Oceana marine scientist Elizabeth Griffin put it: “This meeting was a flop.”

CITES has been a complete failure for the oceans. The one success -- the listing of the porbeagle shark under Appendix II -- was overturned yesterday in the plenary session.

The future of bluefin tuna, the eight proposed species of sharks and red and pink corals now hangs in the balance.

“It appears that money can buy you anything, just ask Japan,” said Dave Allison, senior campaign director. “Under the crushing weight of the vast sums of money gained by unmanaged trade and exploitation of endangered marine species by Japan, China, other major trading countries and the fishing industry, the very foundation of CITES is threatened with collapse.”

Maybe next time -- if these species are still around to be protected.

The failure of CITES means that Oceana’s work – and your support and activism – is more important than ever. You can start by supporting our campaign work to protect these creatures.

Here's Oceana's Gaia Angelini on the conclusion of CITES:

 


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Sights on CITES: Shark Showdown

This is the eighth in a series of dispatches from the CITES conference in Doha, Qatar.

More difficult news out of Doha today.

While seven of the eight proposed shark species (including several species of hammerheads, oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish) were not included in Appendix II, the one bright spot was for the porbeagle shark, which is threatened by widespread consumption in Europe.

The porbeagle’s Appendix II listing is a huge improvement because it requires the use of export permits to ensure that the species are caught by a legal and sustainably managed fishery.

And there is a slight chance that the other shark decisions could be reversed during the plenary session in the final two days.

Here are Oceana scientists Elizabeth Griffin and Rebecca Greenberg reflecting on the shark decisions:


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Sights on CITES: Hope for Sharks

This is the seventh in a series of posts from CITES. Check out the rest of the dispatches from Doha here.

While CITES has disappointed so far on bluefin tuna and corals, there's hope yet for sharks

Eight shark species have been proposed for listing to Appendix II of CITES, including the oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, dusky, sandbar, smooth hammerhead, great hammerhead, porbeagle and spiny dogfish.

Listing these species, which are threatened by shark finning, is necessary to ensure international trade does not drive these shark species to extinction.

Here's Oceana's Ann Schroeer from our Brussels office with an optimistic outlook on the upcoming shark proposals at CITES.

 


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Sights on CITES: Coral Fail

This is the latest in a series of posts from CITES. See the rest of the dispatches here.

Over the weekend, CITES failed to include 31 species of red and pink coral in Appendix II, trade protections that were promised during the last CITES Conference more than two and a half years ago.

These corals are harvested to meet the growing demand for jewelry and souvenirs. The unregulated and virtually unmanaged collection and trade of these species is driving them to extinction. 

Many of the corals are long-lived, reaching more than 100 years of age, and grow slowly, usually less than one millimeter in thickness per year. These colonies are fragile and extremely vulnerable to exploitation and destruction, and their biological characteristics severely limit their ability to recover.

Oceana campaign director Dave Allison had this to say about the corals decision (first video), as well as the failure of CITES to protect marine species in general (second video.)

 


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The Scanner: On the Bright Side Edition

surfing alpaca

© REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Happy Friday, ocean fans. It's almost spring, and a surfing alpaca exists in the world. Things are looking up.

Before we get to the week's best marine tidbits, an important announcement: Oceana board member Ted Danson will be answering questions live on CNN.com on April 1, so send your ocean queries in, stat!

Also, don't forget that today is the last day to take the Ocean IQ quiz for a chance to win prizes, including a trip with SEE Turtles.

This week in ocean news,

…Yes, CITES failed to deliver on bluefin tuna yesterday, but as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Julie Packard pointed out, at least the conversation is changing. Bluefin is now in the same rhetorical realm as endangered land creatures such as tigers and elephants.

…Deep Sea News wrote a requiem for a robot -- the Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) that was lost at sea last week during a research expedition to the Chilean Subduction Zone. On a recent dive, ABE had detected evidence of hydrothermal vents. At the time of its loss, ABE had just begun a second dive to home into a vent site and photograph it.


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Sights on CITES: Bad News for Bluefin

This is the fifth in a series of dispatches from CITES. You can read the other dispatches here.

Breaking news out of Doha: a trade ban on bluefin tuna (Appendix I listing) has been defeated, 20 votes to 68.

Although there were repeated calls from delegates from the E.U., U.S. and Monaco to allow time for parties to meet and arrive at a compromise position, a Libya delegate forced a preemptory vote on the E.U. proposal, which resulted in a 43 to 72 vote, with 14 abstaining.

Campaign director Dave Allison called the defeat "a clear win by short-term economic interest over the long-term health of the ocean and the rebuilding of Atlantic bluefin tuna populations."

The decision could spell the beginning of the end for the tigers of the sea.

Here's Oceana's Maria Jose Cornax on the decision: 

 

 

 


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