Shark debate


Sharks were the subject of international debate in Rome recently. The second inter-governmental meeting on international cooperation on migratory sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) took place on 6–8 December 2008 at the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.


The meeting attracted representatives from 51 states, together with relevant inter- and non-governmental organisations. Building on the outcomes of a previous meeting in 2007, delegates considered possible texts for a CMS instrument on sharks under the Convention


There was a consensus amongst states present that the shark instrument should be a Memorandum of Understanding in non-binding form. New wording was tentatively agreed for the objective of the MoU: “The objective of this Memorandum of Understanding is to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for migratory sharks and their habitats, based on the best scientific evidence, taking into account the socio-economic and other values of these species for the people of the Signatory states.”


However, there was significant disagreement concerning the species that should be covered. All states agreed that the MoU should apply to the three species previously listed on the appendices of the CMS: basking, great white and whale sharks. However, many considered that the four other species added to Appendix II at the 2009 Conference of the Parties should also be covered. A few states considered that species coverage should be wider still and independent of listings on the CMS appendices. A final decision was deferred to the next negotiating meeting and is likely to remain contentious.


Inter-sessional groups were set up to work on text for Fundamental Principles of the MoU and a Conservation and Management Plan. The meeting accepted an offer by the Philippines to host a further meeting in 2009 with the intention to complete an instrument on migratory sharks, so that it can be opened for signature before the end of 2009.


Tom Blasdale

Marine Fisheries Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 655708


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