Critically endangered shark species given extra protection

Millions of sharks will be saved every year following international agreement

Five types of shark species will now be given extra protection after 178 nations at the world’s biggest wildlife summit pledged to crack down on the finning trade.

Those fishing for oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three types of hammerhead shark will now require strictly controlled permits to export fins, which are highly sought-after for the popular Asian dish shark fin soup. The trade is responsible for the killing of millions of sharks every year.

The decision was passed at CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and has been billed as a historic move as previous attempts to protect sharks have failed, due largely to opposition from Japan and China.

Scientists estimate that around 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, contributing to significant drops in species populations. The number of oceanic whitetip sharks has dropped by 93% since 1995, and the population of porbeagles dropped 85% between 1981 and 2005. In 2010, the EU stopped porbeagle fishing due to dwindling numbers, but the species lost out on protection at that year’s CITES by just one vote.

Elizabeth Wilson, manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ global shark campaign, said: “We are thrilled that the tide is now turning for shark conservation, with governments listening to the science and acting in the interests of sustainability.

“With these new protections, [sharks] will have the chance to recover and once again fulfil their role as top predators.”