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Five Shark Species Taken off Fin Soup Menu, CITES Places Them on Protected List

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 12:42 AM EDT
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An international conservation group voted on Monday to ban trade in some shark species, as are threatened by overfishing and targeted for their valuable fins.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok Voted regulate the international trade of five species of sharks including Oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, and smooth hammerheads, as well as two species of manta rays.

Sharks are harvested for their meat, liver oil and cartilage, but their fins are their most valuable parts. They are hacked off, often from live animals, to be used in shark fin soup, an ancient and prized delicacy in East Asia. According to the World Wildlife Fund, a shark's fin can sell for up to $135/kg in Hong Kong.

"This is a landmark moment showing that the world's governments support sustainable fisheries and are concerned about the reckless over-exploitation of sharks for commercial use," Carlos Drews, head of the World Wildlife Fund's delegation at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), said in a statement. "Today's decision will go a long way in slowing down the frenzied overfishing of sharks that is pushing them to the brink of collapse to feed the luxury goods market."

Japan and China, major consumers of shark products, opposed the listing, saying that it will be too difficult for fisherman to identify the differences between which sharks are on the protected list and which aren't. If countries are found to be non-compliant, they may be subject to sanctions that can cover trade in all CITES-listed species.

The vote will require final approval at a CITES plenary on this Thursday when the conference concludes.

"It has been shown today that governments followed the best available science to make decisions on commercially exploited marine life," said Carlos Drews, head of the World Wildlife Fund's.  "We encourage governments to stick by these decisions and not reopen the debate before the end of the week - or put this victory for sharks at risk."

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