January 27, 2011

Shark Conservation Pledges Failing, Environmental Groups Claim

A 10-year pledge among nations to help conserve the shark population has fallen short of its goals, a wildlife trade monitoring network reported on Thursday.

Traffic, an organization dedicated to keeping plant and animal trade from becoming a threat to conservation efforts, teamed with the Pew Environmental Group for a study of the primary shark fishing nations in the world.

"Ten years ago, governments agreed a global plan to conserve sharks," according to BBC News Environmental Correspondent Richard Black.

Those promises, Traffic said in a press release, have gone largely unfulfilled.

Using information provided to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), researchers discovered that "only 13 of the top 20 have developed national plans of action to protect sharks--one of the primary recommendations from 2001--and it remains unclear how those plans have been implemented or if they have been effective."

According to Traffic's statistics, four countries--Indonesia, India, Spain, and Taiwan--account for over 35% of the total sharks captured annually. Worldwide shark populations are on the decline, the environmental group claims, because as many as 73 million of them are killed annually, largely so that their fins can be used to create a popular soup.

The joint Traffic/Pew report, entitled 'The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction,' was released in preparation for an upcoming UN FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting, scheduled to begin on January 31 in Rome. According to Black, the two groups "are asking the FAO to review implementation of the 10-year-old agreement" during that meeting.

"They need to take action to stop the decline in shark populations and help ensure that the list of species threatened by overfishing does not continue to grow," Glenn Sant, the leader of Traffic's Global Marine Program, said in a statement.

"Sharks play a critical role in the ocean environment," added Jill Hepp, Global Shark Conservation manager for the Pew Environment Group. "Where shark populations are healthy, marine life thrives; but where they have been overfished, ecosystems fall out of balance. Shark-catching countries and entities must stand by their commitments and act now to conserve and protect these animals."


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