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Sharks

IATTC: No New Protections for Silky Sharks, Tuna

posted: 07/06/15
by: Danny Clemens

The 89th annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in Ecuador has come to a generally disappointing close.

Conservationists had hoped that the conference would result in increased protections for Pacific bluefin tuna and silky sharks. Neither species was afforded additional protections -- conservation measures were withdrawn due to lack of consensus.

The two species' conservation fates are heavily intertwined: the silky shark is frequently victim to bycatch in the tuna fishery, as it preys heavily on tuna. A 2014 report from the Pacific Bluefin Tuna Working Group found that the fish (Thunnus orientalis) is "near historically low levels and experiencing high exploitation rates". As tuna populations have been exploited to dangerously low levels, silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) populations have also suffered. Once thought to be one of the most abundant sharks on Earth, the silky shark is now considered Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Silky shark
atese/iStock

"There is clear scientific evidence that the vulnerable eastern Pacific silky shark population is declining dramatically due to capture in all of the region's tuna fisheries. It's time for the countries that are serious about shark conservation to support a CITES Appendix II listing for silky sharks next year in South Africa," remarked Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has vigorously supported additional conservation measures for both species.

A CITES Appendix II listing would impose certain restrictions on the trade of silky sharks and bluefin tuna. According to the CITES website, "All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system". The treaty currently affords protections to over 20,000 other species of plants and animals.

There is, however, some good news: IATTC did reject requests from Peru, Colombia and Guatemala to have their tuna quotas raised, and approved a proposal to prohibit the retention of mobulid rays. Mexican authorities also announced a unilateral reduction of Pacific bluefin quotas, which will more closely align the country's catch with sustainable levels.

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