The Politics of CITES (13 Comments)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) took place recently, and most of the world’s countries gathered to decide which species would receive international protection. There were three shark species proposed to be listed: the spiny dogfish (fish and chips), the porbeagle (like a smaller great white), and saw sharks.

These proposals would add three more sharks to the list that so far only contains the basking shark, whale shark and the great white shark. Getting species listed is often a case of politics, as only the most charismatic of megafauna tend to make it. The great white is the most recognizable shark, while the basking and whale sharks have no teeth, and are popular tourist attractions.

The proposed listing of the porbeagle and spiny dogfish on CITES were met by fierce resistance by the US, New Zealand, with Canada leading the opposition. With having 29000 names and pledges in support of these species protection, and receiving over 2500 emails from supporters, the US decided to support the listing, while Canada’s stance stayed firm, and they pushed for the species to remain off the CITES list. Canada and New Zealand’s presence at the assembly swayed voters, and the sharks were not placed on the CITES list, despite recommendations by top scientists that their populations had declined by over 90%.

CITES is a bit of a popularity contest, and what is under the ocean is so often out of sight and out of mind. The first fish was put on the CITES list only in 2004, while terrestrial animals enjoyed decades of increased protection.

The movement to save sharks is growing, but it needs more pressure from consumers and the general public. The politicians and decision makers will respond, as the people have ultimate power.

13 Responses to “The Politics of CITES”

    1. David O'Dwyer August 22nd, 2007 at 4:33 am

      Thanks for this note, very interesting and very true.

      Unfortunately fish are not cuddly and furry and get little attention. As you mention the only sharks listed on CITES are the basking, whale and great white sharks. Other marine species listed includes the great whales, some seahorses and the Napoleon wrasse (which is kind of cuddly!)

      The proposal for listing the ‘Banghai cardinal fish’ on CITES was also squashed this summer. Not entirely sure why, but this is a beautiful and popular aquarium fish that is unfortunately now endangered.

      Lots and lots of sharks that should be listed and many more species of fish.

    1. monica perez September 27th, 2007 at 5:54 pm

      i totally love sharks now and i cant stand to see the sharks getting killed just for a tastless soup that is horrible and its just for our pleasure. it just makes us look fancie if we have it but i am so glad there not allowing it in certain places its small as rob said but its a start I LOVE SHARKS!!!!!

    1. Bill - Orlando, FL September 30th, 2007 at 5:55 pm

      We have to stop the desire for fins. If the demand declines then the market will stop hunting these gorgeous animals. It would benefit the cause if those peoples who think that the shark is not prone to disease see a few sharks that are poisoned with mercury or shown to have tumors to let them know that Sharks do not hold the key to long life. We should campaign those countries that fuel the need for such senseless killings.

      Forget the cheerleader, save the shark, save the world.

    1. Rand April 21st, 2008 at 2:56 pm

      I am appalled as a canadian that we opposed this. Do you have any information of the politicians that led this or any info about canadas role?

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