PADI AWARE Foundation is drumming up support in advance of an imminent meeting in Panama that could prove significant for the welfare of sharks around the world. “Take action now… there won’t be another chance for three years!” it is urging the dive-community.
Panama is hosting CITES CoP19, the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, from next week (14-25 November). CITES is a UN agreement that is binding on 184 countries and limits international trade in animals identified as being at risk.
At the meeting the governments present will vote on whether to accept or reject a variety of proposals. If proposals receive support from two-thirds of those governments, the shark species are placed on a CITES protected list that serves to restrict international trade in shark-fins, meat and other products.
Fifty-plus species of requiem shark, hammerhead and guitarfish will be affected by the upcoming decisions, including many species such as grey reef, Caribbean reef and lemon sharks that are regularly encountered by scuba divers.
Tourists to dive-sites
“This CITES meeting is turning out to be one of the most important for sharks ever,” says PADI AWARE Foundation’s associate director of policy & campaigns Ian Campbell. “The proposals put forward include most of the species that make up the shark-fin trade, and that attract tourists to dive-sites the world over.
“CITES only comes round once every three years, so we must grab this opportunity before these sharks disappear from our favourite spots forever.”
Sharks play a critical role in marine ecosystems, so population decline affects the health of the ocean by throwing the ocean food-chain out of balance.
Over a third of all shark and ray species are facing extinction, primarily as a result of overfishing but also because of continuing demand for their fins, bycatch, habitat and prey loss and human disturbance.
PADI AWARE Foundation says it will be presenting the signed letters directly to the decision-makers at the convention and urging governments to vote yes to enforcing greater shark protection.
And it emphasises that with more than 30 years of shark advocacy under its belt, helping to add 51 species including oceanic whitetips, smooth hammerheads and giant manta rays to CITES, it believes that the approach does work.