Countries have agreed to strengthen protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, including those hunted for their meat and fins.
The proposal was passed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on Sunday.
Opponents variously included China, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand. The United States voted against the mako shark measure, but supported the other two.
The newly protected species include mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfishes.
A demand for shark fin soup is one of the driving factors in the depleting numbers of sharks in the ocean.
- Thousands of shark fins are seen drying on the roof top of an industrial building in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town district, Hong Kong, China. EPA/ALEX HOFFORD
The proposal, which was tabled by Mexico and requires ratification this week, means that the species can no longer be traded unless it can be proven that their fishing will not impact the possibility of their survival.
Critics variously argued that the measures distanced CITES from its initial mandate to protect endangered land animals and plants, not marine life, and insisted the science didn’t back up the call to increase protections. They also noted that that millions of Mako sharks exist and even the CITES secretariat advised against the protections.
But proponents countered that stocks of sharks are in a deep dive, with tens of millions killed each year, and that measures need to be taken now–with what they call some of the most significant rules ever adopted for trade in shark parts.