Oceana, the world’s largest international ocean conservation organization, declared the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) a “tragedy of the oceans” today after it failed to protect nearly all the marine species proposed for listing in Appendix I and II during the 15th Conference of the Parties over the past two weeks. Specifically, it failed to ban the international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna and implement international trade regulations for seven shark species and 31 species of red and pink coral, all of which are essential to the oceans, livelihoods and local economies.
“It appears that money can buy you anything, just ask Japan,” said David Allison, senior campaign director at Oceana. “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.”
Overfishing and the demand of international trade are driving these species of bluefin tuna, sharks and corals to the brink of extinction. Atlantic bluefin tuna, primarily exported to Japan for use in sushi and sashimi, is one of the oceans’ most valuable and vulnerable species. According to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the North Atlantic bluefin tuna spawning biomass has been decimated to less than 15 percent of its unfished biomass, with the sharpest decline occurring in the last decade. Oceana was calling CITES the last chance for protection of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
”Now the very future of bluefin is uncertain,” said María José Cornax, marine scientist at Oceana. “An international trade ban on bluefin tuna would be the strongest single action to end the global market greed for this species. CITES Parties pushed bluefin tuna towards collapse in a shameful process led once again by industry interest.”
Many shark populations around the world have declined by up to 99 percent in recent decades. Oceanic whitetip, dusky, sandbar, spiny dogfish, porbeagle and scalloped, smooth and great hammerhead sharks are threatened by the international consumer demand for their fins, skins, meat and liver oil. The international shark fin trade alone is a multi-billion dollar business that is pushing many shark species to the brink of extinction as the demand for shark fin soup in Asia continues to rise.
“This meeting was a flop,” said Elizabeth Griffin, marine scientist and fisheries campaign at Oceana. “I question if CITES has the political will to protect economically valuable marine species like sharks. Scientific support for listing these shark species just couldn’t compete with dirty politics.”
According to Oceana, one of the only successes of CITES was the inclusion of porbeagle sharks in Appendix II. Porbeagle sharks, close relation to the infamous great white, are under threat by the international demand for their meat, which is primarily imported into Europe. Inclusion in Appendix II will ensure its international trade is kept to sustainable levels.
Red and pink coral, which were proposed for trade protections in CITES for the second time in a row, also failed to get the final two-thirds vote necessary to require trade management under Appendix II due to growing international demand for jewelry and souvenirs. In the last 50 years, the catch of red and pink coral has dropped by more than 80 percent due to population declines following heavy exploitation.
To learn more about Bluefin Tuna, Sharks and Corals at CITES, and for downloadable images, please visit www.oceana.org/CITES.