Costa Rica, Brazil and Honduras join to tackle international trade of endangered hammerhead sharks

Costa Rica, together with Brazil and Honduras, submitted a proposal for the inclusion of hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and the European Union cosponsored the proposal. The final decision will be taken during the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) of CITES in Thailand, March of 2013.

“This is great progress towards protecting Hammerhead sharks. These beautiful and important hammerhead sharks are getting hammered.  Because of their high value in the international shark fin trade, these sharks are heavily poached from marine reserves like Cocos Isalnd and the population cannot withstand the fishing pressure.” Said David McGuire, Director of Shark Stewards. “Shark Stewards conratulates Costa Rica and our partners PRETOMA in taking leadership protecting these vulnerable shark species from extinction.  We urge the Coalition of the Parties to give them the protection they deserve under CITES next year.”

Hammerhead sharks are sought for their high value fins to satisfy the international demand of shark fins for the elaboration of shark fin soup in Asia. The species is classified as Endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  A similar petition was  defeated in 2010, lead primarily by Japan and Spain who prfot from the shark fin trade.

Appendix II of CITES includes all species whose commerce must be submitted to strict regulations, guaranteeing that the level of removal of individuals from their natural habitat and the international commerce generated is not detrimental to its survival or ecosystem function. According to this requirement, Sates must certify that the commerce of species in Appendix II is sustainable, through a system of exporting licenses granted by the Scientific Authority (SA) of CITES, that guarantees the sustainability of the extraction. If necessary, the SA must communicate with the Executive Authority for the execution of measures that limit exports of the species in question.

Last June, Costa Rica succeeded in including hammerhead sharks in Appendix III of CITES, which allows for the improved collection of information regarding the international commerce of this species, as well as to request the support of neighboring nations that share the population, but is doesn’t protect from unsustainable fishing practices, such as shark finning. Thus, the reason why Costa Rica now seeks its inclusion in Appendix II of CITES.

“Hammerhead sharks have turned into a symbol of national marine conservation, because of which I congratulate the Government of Costa Rica for its leadership and commitment to protect this emblematic species,” expressed Randall Arauz, of the Costa Rican organization Pretoma. “Fortunately, the sponsoring of the proposal by Latin American nations such as Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, and Ecuador, as well as the Economic Union, strengthens the proposal and its chances of winning the vote during the next COP meeting of CITES in Thailand,” said Arauz with enthusiasm.