Several countries have agreed to strengthen the protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, some of which are found in the Mediterranean Sea.
The proposal for the strengthening of protections was passed during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) on Sunday, with plenty of these threatened species being hunted and then sold commercially for their meat and fins.
Some of the newly-protected species include mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfishes.
In the past, shortfin mako sharks have been spotted in Malta and mistaken for the much larger Great White sharks.
This decision was driven by the increasing demand for shark fin soup around the world, with this being one of the main contributors to the depletion of the already very limited number of sharks in the world.
This proposal, which was put forward by Mexico and will still require some sort of ratification this week, means that the 18 listed species cannot be traded unless it can be proven that their fishing will not harm their chance of survival. In other words, the species can only be fished to be examined and bred.
102 countries voted in favour of this proposal, yet a staggering 40 voted against it, including China, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand. All of these countries seem to have a large portion of their GDP allocated to aquaculture, with China in particular being the world’s top fish producer for several years, producing 65.2 million tonnes of edible fish in 2015 alone.
Those against the proposal mainly argued that there was not enough evidence to show that these species were disappearing due to fishing and not due to another reason.
Mako sharks in particular are the world’s fastest shark species, and have practically disappeared from the Mediterranean Sea, in the past being one of the few sharks that could actually get adjusted to the temperatures of the sea. Apart from this, the number of mako sharks in the Atlantic, Northern Pacific and Indian oceans is decreasing very quickly.
Due to their temperature being higher than the surrounding water, as well as them having an extremely streamlined body, the mako shark is able to reach a staggering top speed of 96km/h.
The director of conservation at Shark Trust, Ali Hood, was glad about the move to protect the threatened species, saying “Mako are highly valued for their meat and fins. Decades of unrestricted overfishing, particularly on the high seas, has led to significant population declines.”
Conservationists have said that this act will be the world’s last chance to stop the mako shark populations from collapsing altogether.
Apart from the mako shark, the proposal also states that some quite unusual animals, called wedgefish and guitarfish, which are together known as rhino rays, will also be protected.
Rhino rays are said to be the most threatened fish species, with only one of all of the species being critically endangered.
Wedgefish in particular have two large dorsal fins and a large tail lobe that is said to be a delicacy to be used in soup.
Luke Warwick from the Wildlife Conservation Society stated that with these proposals, “There is now hope for these species.”
Mr Warwick also added that “If no more fishing, no more mortalities, no more sharks were to be killed in the North Atlantic from today, scientists estimate it would be 2070 until the population recovers, even to kind of a base level where fishing would be advisable again.”