In a landmark decision, conservationists at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP16 in Bangkok voted in favour of strictly regulating international trade of five species of sharks that are threatened by overfishing because of the high value of their fins. This was further ratified at a plenary session held recently.
While the vote has been welcomed, an expert in Oman has said that listing of species in Appendix II of CITES only puts restrictions on international trade and hence, only a drop in demand, and further, monitoring at borders can reduce fishing activity.
Oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, and smooth hammerheads as well as two species of manta rays are all set to get new protection after the vote at the world's biggest wildlife meeting consisting of 178 member countries.
Commenting on the latest decision and how it is going to affect Oman, Aoron Henderson, who spent about a decade at Sultan Qaboos University till 2012 and heads many research projects on sharks in Omani waters, said that the news from CITES is very good. “The scalloped hammerhead is one of the most commonly caught sharks in the Arabian region, and there is no doubt that its stocks are under severe pressure.”
He added that Oman currently does not have any regulations in place to manage its shark fishery. “So on that basis alone I would say that not enough is being done to ensure the sustainability of the resource.”
Henderson further said that being listed on CITES does not have any direct impact on fisheries, it merely puts restrictions on international trade. “In theory, that should have an indirect impact on Oman’s fishery, as a large proportion of what is caught here is sent to the UAE (so, if the export demand is removed, fishing activity should reduce).”
He added, “The big question is whether anybody at the border will monitor this trade and enforce the CITES regulations.
“The fact is cross-border trade of species that is already listed on CITES has been continuing unaffected.”