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Fisheries advisory panel offers recommendations on CITES proposals

Atlantic Bluefin tuna, several shark species, corals reviewed

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Quinn, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en typo3temp/pics/32e701b11f.jpg Original: www.flickr.com/photos/sharkbait/
An Oceanic Whitetip Shark. (Photo by J. Quinn)
Rome, 14 December 2009 - An advisory panel of independent experts convened by FAO has issued recommendations regarding six proposals to limit international trade in a number of commercially exploited aquatic animals under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The CITES Convention was established to protect wild species whose status is being directly affected by international trade. It is not designed to protect species that are endangered for other reasons. Once a species is listed by CITES, its international trade is subject to varying degrees of control depending on its status, ranging from controlled trading (if listed on CITES Appendix II) to outright bans (Appendix I).

The proposals, submitted by various CITES parties, request the Convention to control international trade in certain shark and coral species and to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. They will be considered for listing at the 15th Conference of CITES parties (Doha, Qatar, 13-25 March 2010).

The advisory panel consisted of 22 international fishery experts from 15 different countries. It was convened to evaluate the proposals according to criteria established by CITES and to give independent and impartial recommendations based on the experts' knowledge and on the scientific evidence presented in each proposal. This follows a formal process through which FAO channels advice from external fishery scientists to CITES. The CITES Conference of Parties will take the final decision regarding listing of proposed species.

Panel outcomes

Following a thorough six-day review and using the CITES criteria, the panel determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant placing the following species on CITES Appendix II: Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), Porbeagle (Lamna nasus), and Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini). In addition, the proposed listing of "look-alike" shark species to help enforcement for Scalloped hammerhead shark was found to be justified in two of the four cases, Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) and Smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena).

The panel did not reach consensus regarding the proposed listing under CITES Appendix I of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), however a majority of the panel agreed that the available evidence supports the proposal. There was consensus that the evidence available supports the inclusion of Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix II.

For the remaining species under consideration, Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and all species of the coral family Coralliidae, the panel assessed that they did not meet the criteria required by CITES for listing on Appendix II. However, the panel did note that inadequate management in many areas of distribution of these species represents a cause for "serious concern". It urged that these shortcomings be remedied by relevant fishing nations and regional organizations in order to prevent rates of exploitation for these animals from exceeding acceptable levels.

The full report of the advisory panel will be available within the next month and accessible on the website of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.