New regulations provides more protection to endangered shark species
Friday, September 12, 2014, 4:30 PM - Starting this weekend, five endangered species of shark will be afforded greater protection against over fishing.
The historic initiative was set in motion back in March 2013 by the 178 countries that belong to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
At that time the committee agreed to impose strict sanctions for hunting hammerhead, porbeagle and whitetip sharks, as well as two manta ray species.
"The listing was a victory for science over politics," said Andy Cornish, head of a shark preservation initiative backed by WWF, said in a statement.
According to the WWF, more than 70 million sharks are killed worldwide each year.
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Experts say Asia's high demand for shark fins -- the key ingredient in shark fin soup -- is pushing all shark species to the brink of extinction.
On the black market, the shark fin trade is thought to generate more than $480 million per year.
Manta rays are hunted ruthlessly for their gill plates, which are considered a health tonic in parts of China.
"Now the real work [of enforcing the sanctions] starts," Cornish said.
CITES will be working with local authorities and customs agencies to ensure all fishermen have proper permits. Illegal shark parts will be seized at all ports of entry.
Juan Carlos Vasquez, a legal expert with CITES, told Live Science that fisheries officials and environmentalists have been working together to implement the new laws, which go into effect Sunday.