Global wildlife summit approves shark protection plan

© Joseph Prezioso, AFP

Delegates at a global summit on trade in endangered species on Friday approved a plan to protect 54 more shark species, a move that could drastically reduce the lucrative and cruel shark fin trade.

Members of the requiem shark and the hammerhead shark families will now have their trade tightly controlled under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The proposal was adopted by consensus on the final day of the two-week meeting by delegates from 183 countries and the European Union.

Delegates have been considering 52 proposals to change species' protection levels. Other species debated were glass frogs, crocodiles, guitarfish, and some turtle species.

Panamanian delegate Shirley Binder told AFP the "historic decision" would mean a large number of sharks making up 90 percent of the market would now be protected.

Insatiable appetite in Asia for shark fins, which make their way onto dinner tables in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, has spurred their trade.

Despite being described as almost tasteless and gelatinous, shark fin soup is viewed as a delicacy and is enjoyed by the very wealthy, often at weddings and expensive banquets.

Shark fins, representing a market of about $500 million per year, can sell for about $1,000 a kilogram (2.2 pounds).

"This will be remembered as the day we turned the tide to prevent the extinction of the world's sharks and rays," said Luke Warwick, director of shark protection for the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


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