Migratory Sharks Offered Protection Wherever They May Roam

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Blue sharks have one of the widest ranging migratory patterns of all sharks (Photo: Martin Prochazkacz / Shutterstock)

The Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP12) took place in Manila, the Philippines from 23 to 28 October 2017 under the theme ‘Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife & People’.

As a result of the gathering, a number of species have been afforded greater protection under the agreement: 12 mammals including lions and leopard, 16 birds including several species of endangered vultures, and importantly for marine conservation, six species of fish, including whale sharks.

Part of the problem with such migratory species is that they may be well protected in one region, with specific regulations related to interactions with the wildlife ranging from acceptable fishing practices to marine tourism, but may stray into the territorial waters of a different country where they are not afforded such protection.

Whale sharks, which are a particular draw for tourism in many locations, including the Philippines, are protected by law in many countries around the world, but are also capable of migrating across oceans, where they may well surface in areas where they are vulnerable to unregulated hunting. As a result, whale sharks have been listed on Appendix I of the agreement, which binds local governments to protect the species.

Blue sharks, one of the widest-ranging migratory species of shark have also been under threat, partly due to the shark-finning trade, but also because their distribution throughout the world's oceans makes them vulnerable as accidental bycatch of the international fishing trade.

Along with the blue shark, dusky sharks, angelsharks, the white-spotted wedgefish and common guitarfish are listed on Appendix II of the treaty, a cross-border agreement calling for 'international cooperation to ensure that the conservation status of a species is favourable.', 

'Migratory animals play a critical role in our planet’s ecosystem. They act as pollinators, control pests and are a source of food and income. They are also an inspiration for people here in the Philippines and all around the world', said Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Philippine's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in a COP 12 press release.

A total of 126 countries have signed up to the agreement, a significant step forward in world shark conservation.

Video from New Scientist's YouTube channel




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