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In the future of sharks, Latin America will be an essential factor – Environment – Life

For five days (March 7-11), more than four hundred delegates and observers from around the world gathered in the French city of Lyon. There they discussed in what has been the most extensive agenda of the Permanent Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

The meeting was essential to pave the way for the next Conference of the Parties (COP19) of Cites, which this year meets in Panama in November. There, the world will talk (among other topics) about how eels, corals, seahorses, queen conch, sea turtles, West African vultures, big cats, pangolins, rosewood, orchids and two essential groups for the oceans: the Sharks and the stripes.

(Also read: The ‘finning’, an atrocious status symbol that threatens sharks).

In 2021, 3,493 shark fins were seized at the El Dorado airport in Bogotá. It is estimated that between 900 and 1,000 sharks had to die to keep that number of fins.


Secretary of the Environment

According to data from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), more than 50 percent of shark species are threatened or near endangered and pelagic sharks (those species found in the high seas) have declined by more than 70 percent in a period of just 50 years. These animals, which are indicators of the good health of the seas – where there are sharks there is a healthy ecosystem – have also ceased to be seen in areas such as the Colombian Pacific, where, environmentalist Sandra Bessudo explained to EL TIEMPO, in the last 12 years their sighting has decreased by 60 percent.

For the most part, sharks are affected by indiscriminate fishing. Since they are considered in many cases a fishing resource, so large companies catch them and sell them to the Asian market, the largest consumer of shark fins in the world.

In fact, for example In Ecuador, shark fin exports skyrocketed in 2021, according to data from the National Customs Service of Ecuador, which records that in all of 2020, 82.18 tons of shark fins were exported (which cost 2.9 million dollars), and only during the months of January to September 2021 that figure almost tripled, going to 223 tons (which cost 6.5 million dollars). This, despite the fact that the directed capture of these animals in Ecuador is prohibited, it is only allowed as incidental fishing (when the animal is caught in the nets of a fishing boat whose objective of capture is not sharks, but other resources, and when he dies he is allowed to use his flesh).

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But how to conserve sharks?

According to the Colombian marine biologist Carlos Julio Polo Silva, who was at the last Cites meeting, since 2014 we have been talking more and more about conserving sharks. Polo, who for more than 20 years has worked on issues related to sharks, participated as a researcher from the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, advising the government of Panama, a country that, he assures, brought a good proposal for the conservation of these animals and wants consolidate itself, as Colombia has already done, as a leader in the protection of sharks. This, given that Colombia is the only country in the region that has totally prohibited the hunting of sharks, both directed and incidental.

The Government of Panama announced a very good proposal, a very interesting proposal to support the inclusion of four species of sharks within Appendix II of CITES and the entire family Carcharhinidae due to their resemblance to each other in terms of fins and meat. This complete family that is the carcharhinids, includes if I am not wrong more than 50 percent of all species that are in the marketPolo highlighted.

Cites has three appendices to regulate international trade in species and help conserve animals. In Appendix I, Cites prohibits international trade in specimens of these species, except when the importation is for non-commercial purposes (ie research purposes or maintenance in closed systems). Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that could become so unless their trade is strictly controlled, in this what is sought is to generate international trade that is sustainable and does not affect the populations of the species. included in the Appendix. And finally, Appendix III includes the species included at the request of a party that already regulates the trade of said species and needs the cooperation of other countries to avoid their unsustainable or illegal exploitation.

(Also read: What do environmentalism and its leaders in Congress look like?).

According to Polo, what we are seeing is that more and more countries are seeking to protect sharks, which, due to Hollywood, have carried a bad image that has not made it possible to show the importance of their protection. In Latin America, for example, the protection of sharks is beginning to improve with the great marine corridor that already exists and that they hope to continue expanding in the marine protected areas of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.

Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama

Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama during the signing of an agreement to extend the protected maritime zone by 60,000 km2, a commitment made at the last COP26 on climate change.


Presidency of the Republic

In addition, what is discussed at the next COP 19 of Cites and the possibility that countries have of putting biodiversity above commercial matters will also be essential, an action already carried out by Colombia, which is planned by Costa Rica and Panama, but which has not yet it is seen in other important areas for the protection of the ‘king of the ocean’ such as Peru and Ecuador.

That expansion of this great marine corridor, from Coiba, in Panama; of Cocos, in Costa Rica; of Galapagos, in Ecuador, and possibly the increase in the area in Malpelo will allow us to have a much larger area so that all these species that are migratory can recover and remain a little more stable in these areas that will be no-fishing. Sometimes we think that we are going to see these results in one or two years from now, and no. In order to recover a population of sharks subjected to fishing pressure, around two or three generations are needed, between 20 and 30 yearsPolo finished.

@CaicedoUcros | @ElTiempoVerde

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