These days, when it comes to the environment, it feels like good news is hard to come by. That’s why every new win for the planet and its inhabitants, like the recently proposed protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, is cause for celebration.
Though 40 countries voted against prohibiting the trade of species that are endangered by fishing practices, an overwhelming 102 nations voted in support of the proposal, which passed this weekend at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The move has yet to be ratified but is expected to become official this week.
Mako sharks and rhino rays like wedgefish and guitarfish are among the species that will benefit from the protections, as well as others that are targeted by commercial fisheries, in large part to meet the demand for shark fin soup. Opponents of the regulations — which include China, Japan, Iceland, and New Zealand — cite a lack of evidence to support the claim that fishing is a primary contributor to these dwindling populations while those in favor blame consumerism for their threatened statuses. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, commercial fisheries kill anywhere from 63 to 273 million sharks every year for their fins, meat, cartilage, and other parts.
Experts like Ali Hood, director of conservation at Shark Trust, a charitable organization dedicated to “safeguarding the future of sharks,” also welcome the protections. Says Hood, the “listing would be critical for ensuring that international trade is held to sustainable levels, prompting urgently needed catch limits and improving traceability.”