CITES and FAO promote better understanding of the application and effectiveness of international regulatory measures for the conservation and sustainable use of sharks

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), listed in CITES Appendix II, is one of
the 12 species of shark that have been included in CITES Appendices

The report of an international workshop to “Review the Application and Effectiveness of International Regulatory Measures for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Elasmobranchs”, convened jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and CITES in Genazzano, Italy, has been published by FAO.

The workshop was attended by specialists, acting in an individual expert capacity, from a variety of different disciplines, sectors and geographic regions.

Amongst their key conclusions, the workshop participants agreed that:

  • international cooperation of States is very important for a species (or stock) with a broad geographic distribution to ensure that necessary management measures are applied over a sufficiently large distribution area; otherwise, the measures taken by one or a few States might not have the desired effect on the status of the species or stock;
     
  • every regulatory measure will be met with a mixed response by civil society when different groups have different interests;
  • scientific assessment and data collection for sound shark management regimes at national and international levels are important, together with species identification tools and appropriate training of data collectors and inspectors;
  • while every effort to improve scientific assessment should be made, the application of adaptive management and precautionary management approaches as well as the ecosystem approach to fisheries should be considered;
  • Information from fishery-independent sources (i.e. scientific surveys) is very important for scientific stock assessment and subsequent management advice, however, these types of activities are very costly and may be beyond the economic realities of developing countries without international assistance and cooperation; and
  • the listing of sharks on one of the CITES Appendices alone cannot effectively ensure their conservation without a proper fishery management scheme, therefore, the use of CITES to regulate international trade in sharks should be considered as a complementary measure rather than an alternative to traditional fisheries management; under the right circumstances, however, international trade measures – provided they are properly implemented - can play a valuable supportive role in helping to ensure sustainable fisheries and provide incentives for the creation or enhancement of a fisheries management scheme for the species concerned.

“This was a very valuable workshop involving a wide and varied range of stakeholders” commented John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General. “It demonstrates how CITES and FAO are working together, within their respective mandates, to address the serious challenges faced in sustainably managing the world’s sharks, rays and skates”, he added.