The 12th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (C.M.S. C.O.P.12) accepted the proposal by Samoa and Sri Lanka to list the blue shark on C.M.S. Appendix II, acknowledging that the species is under threat and would benefit from collaborative conservation measures.
Introducing the joint proposal to the 500 delegates assembled in the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila, Head of Delegation, Gillian Shirley Tuagalu of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Government of Samoa, appealed for support from the 104 countries represented at the conference.
“Over the past 150 years, our Pacific people have seen their iconic species hunted or fished by industrialised and developed countries from outside our region, and many have been reduced to depressingly low levels,” Ms. Tuagalu said.
“Samoa has therefore opted to play a more prominent role in the global community to promote awareness, conservation – and importantly, to promote the link between conservation and sustainable fishing.”
Commenting on the suggestion by some countries that blue sharks, which are the most frequently-caught shark globally, are being harvested sustainably, Ms. Tuagalu said fisheries stock assessments were an inherently inaccurate exercise.
“Even if the data provided is comprehensive and reliable, a great many assumptions need to be made in any assessment. Unfortunately, the reality is that for most of the industrialised shark fisheries, and certainly for the Pacific Ocean, the observer coverage on board longline vessels is extremely low – between 2-5 per cent.”
“Additionally, many vessels trans-ship on the high seas, with no observer on board either the fishing vessel or the receiving vessel. Therefore, the data that go into a stock assessment are in all likelihood unreliable, and are more likely to under-estimate than to over-estimate the extent of stock depletion.
“In the Pacific, we are convinced that the over-fishing of sharks is causing clear and demonstrable impacts on the trophic relationships between fish species on our coral reefs, contributing to a decline in reef health throughout our region.
“The fishery for blue sharks has been estimated to remove 20 million animals every year – this may well be the single biggest removal of a large wild vertebrate in the world,” Ms. Tuagalu said.
Samoa and Sri Lanka were both strongly supported in this listing proposal by India, Ecuador, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau and Brazil. Although both New Zealand and Norway expressed their reservations about listing blue sharks on Appendix II, they agreed not to block consensus, and the joint proposal was accepted by acclamation.
“This is a very significant step for the Pacific islands and for CMS as an organisation,” said Director General of SPREP, KosiLatu.
“I commend Samoa for bringing this proposal forward and for highlighting the central role played by sharks in the cultures and ecology of the Pacific islands. We will do our best to support Samoa and our Pacific Island members to ensure that the spirit of this listing is carried forward and that blue sharks are able to recover to healthy levels in our ocean, for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.”