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Several shark species are vulnerable to target and bycatch fisheries (commercial and recreational), some of which supply high-value products in the form of fins, jaws and teeth for international trade. Most shark species are utilised for their meat and fins, sometimes also cartilage, liver oil and hides. Concerns about the conservation status of shark species affected by international trade, and the slow progress in the implementation of the IPOA-Sharks, have led to an increasing level of attention from CITES on the conservation of shark species. The shark species currently listed on CITES Appendices are the white shark Carcharodon carcharias, whale shark Rhincodon typus and basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, all three listed in Appendix II. In addition, at CoP14 it was decided to include all species of sawfishes (family Pristidae) in Appendix I, with the exception of Pristis microdon which is included in Appendix II.

In the above context, CITES requested FAO to convene a workshop on shark management to promote the development and implementation of national plans of action for shark conservation and management. In response to this request, and with the endorsement of the 26th Session of COFI, FAO undertook an Expert Consultation to Review Implementation of the International Plan of Action (IPOA) for Sharks at National Levels, in Rome 6 – 8 December 2005.

The results of the consultation, published as a FAO Fisheries Report in 2006 (full report in PDF) and forwarded to the CITES Secretariat, indicated several problems that were hampering the implementation of the IPOA-Sharks. These included the lack of information on population biology and catch and effort data needed to inform management decision, the low political priority to shark fisheries resulting in a lack of effective policy and institutional practice, and a basic lack of funds and human resources to manage shark fisheries at the national level. It was also concluded that the voluntary basis of the IPOA-Sharks did not provide the necessary incentives to increase political attention to shark fisheries management.

Informed by the results of the Expert Consultation and based on the work of the Sharks Working Group of the CITES Animals Committee, the Animals Committee elaborated draft decisions concerning future activities of CITES on sharks. At CoP14 the draft decisions were revised and adopted by Parties. Of the adopted decisions directed to CITES Parties, Secretariat and Animals Committee, the following have direct relevance to FAO:

  • to refine the list of shark species of concern because of the effect of international trade; (decision 14.107)

  • to organize a regional workshop on trade and sustainable management of South American freshwater stingrays (dec. 14.109);

  • to organize capacity building workshop on the conservation and management of sharks (using the coastal sharks Galeorhinus galeus as a case study) (dec. 14.114);

  • to encourage Parties “through their delegations to COFI, to call on FAO to facilitate greater support for countries whose capacity to assess and manage their shark fisheries is limited, and to provide the resources necessary for FAO to undertake this work” (dec. 14.112);

  • to encourage top shark fishing nations to implement FAO IPOA-Sharks as a matter of priority (dec. 14.115);

  • to examine and report on linkages between the trade in shark fins and meat and IUU shark fishing activities (dec 14.117)

As a follow up to the above recommendations, FAO is currently undertaking a study on the assessment of biological status of sharks species threatened by international trade, funded by the Trust Fund project “CITES and commercially exploited aquatic species”. The study will provide a focus for further activities of the Organization on the development of capacity for the conservation and management of shark species most affected by international trade.

FAO is also organizing a technical workshop on the "Status, limitation and opportunities for improving the monitoring of shark fisheries and trade", to be held in Rome from 3 to 6 of November 2008. Funded by the CITES Trust Fund Project, the workshop will bring together experts from a number of main shark fishing and trading countries to discuss and agree upon the main limitations and to identify opportunities to improve the monitoring of shark fisheries and the trade in shark products.

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