Friday, January 18, 2013

There’s science, and then there’s politics

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According to the Pew Environment Group, the UN Advisory Panel that makes recommendations for proposals at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has recommended support for the oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, and porbeagle shark proposals at this year's convention of the parties in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Food and Agriculture Organization unanimously agreed that oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks meet the criteria for CITES listing. For porbeagle, the majority of the panel members also believed the species met the criteria for listing on Appendix II.

While the panel was unable to come to a decision regarding the manta ray species, they did acknowledge various risk factors including their low productivity, the seasonal and predictable aggregations, the lack of reliable catch and population information, and lacking management at the regional and international levels in many areas.

This doesn't mean that the fight to list sharks at CITES this year is over; far from it. We're just getting started.

The FAO panel makes its recommendations based on science, which requires data. The data strongly suggests protections are needed for the shark species. For manta rays, the data isn’t there, but the writing, so to speak, is on the wall. The science also doesn’t say they are healthy, which is an important fact to point out.

CITES is all about politics. There are countries that want to see sharks protected, and there are countries that do not. The undecideds are being lobbied by both sides to vote their respective ways.

If anything, the urgency is even higher. The science says these protections are needed, but there is a very real threat that politics will get in the way. That is why we need to show the global support for these proposals. And that is what Shark Stanley and friends are doing.

If you haven't taken your photo with Shark Stanley yet, what are you waiting for? And if you have, can you ask 20 friends to do the same?

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