UN group rejects protection for sharks

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PARIS

Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 7

Delegates to a UN conference on endangered species voted down three of four proposals to protect sharks on Tuesday, handing another victory to Japan, China and countries opposed to the involvement of the international authorities in regulation of ocean fish.

The nations gathered in Doha for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora rejected proposals that would have required countries to strictly regulate — but not ban — trade in several species of scalloped hammerhead, oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish sharks.

The hammerhead and whitetip proposals, introduced by the US and Palau, received majority backing. However, the treaty behind the conference, abbreviated as CITES, requires that measures be approved by two-thirds of the delegates who are voting.

A proposal from the EU and Palau to protect porbeagle sharks squeaked by with a vote of 86 to 42, with eight abstentions — a winning margin of a single vote.

“We will continue to pursue our efforts to protect sharks from eradication by the decadent and cruel process of shark-finning,” Stuart Beck, Palau’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement. “I am sure that, properly prepared, bald eagle is delicious. But, as civilized people, we simply do not eat it.”

China, by far the world’s largest consumer of the cartilaginous fish, for sharkfin soup, and Japan, which has battled to keep the convention from being extended to any marine species, led the opposition.

“This is not about trade issues, but fisheries enforcement,” Masanori Miyahara, Japan’s top fisheries negotiator, was quoted as telling delegates. “Poaching is a big problem.”

Juan Carlos Vasquez, a spokesman for the UN convention, said that the votes on the hammerhead and the porbeagle could be reopened today and possibly overturned at the final session of the conference because the margin of passage was so narrow.