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Protection for endangered sharks

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Conservation

Whale shark

International protection for endangered sharks, including the whale shark (above), has come out of a recent UN-led meeting in the Philippines.

Credit: John Hanson/Wikimedia

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International cooperation has boosted the protection of endangered migratory sharks, following a UN-led meeting last week in the Philippines.

“This negotiation is the first global agreement to conserve sharks…and in fact any migratory animal on this scale,” said Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

The international meeting was spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) secretariat, where representatives from eleven countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that unites international protection of sharks. Only ten signatures were needed to validify the Convention, automatically covering all 113 countries which are involved - including Australia.

The Memorandum offers protection to seven listed migratory sharks in particular: the great white, basking, whale shark, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, and both shortfin and longfin mako sharks.

Migratory sharks cross national boundaries - the whale shark has been reported to travel 13,000 km across ocean basins - yet there has so far been no standard for international management.

“The agreement is global because of the nature of migratory sharks being found in a range of marine areas…so in terms of the number of countries involved, it is almost the whole world," said Maruma Mrema.

Sarah Fowler, head of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, said that sharks are one of the most seriously threatened animals in the world, with an estimated 17 per cent of the 1,044 known shark species being listed as either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

Studies in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea have shown shark populations reduced by 90 per cent over the last 15 years.

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