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Governments agree on new UN-backed pact to protect sharks

Governments agree on new UN-backed pact to protect sharks

Great white shark
Dozens of governments agreed in principle today to a new United Nations global agreement to protect sharks, which have long been neglected by conservationists and overexploited by the modern fishing industry.

Three of the largest and most iconic shark species – migratory whale, great white and basking sharks – have been singled out for protection in the agreement reached after a three-day meeting, also attended by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and fisheries bodies, in the Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles.

The meeting was organized by the Convention on Migratory Species, an intergovernmental treaty concluded under the aegis of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that seeks to conserve wildlife and habitats on a global scale.

Although it had been feared that the interests of individual fisheries would thwart an agreement from being reached, the meeting’s chairman, Rolph Payet, announced that Governments had resolved their differences.

To be finalized next year, the agreement will promote cooperation among governments, fisheries bodies, scientists and NGOs, as well as further efforts to conserve sharks, including putting controls on shark finning given the surging worldwide demand for fins as a luxury food.

It also includes encourages the creation of a global shark database and identifying and protecting critical shark habitats and migration routes.

Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of UNEP/CMS, said that this latest agreement brings the total number of new agreements having secured international approval to eight this year. Aside from sharks, these cover the following endangered migratory animals: ruddy-headed geese, birds of prey, sea cows, small whales, Mediterranean monk seals, grassland birds and gorillas.

“The challenge now is to get these new agreements into full operation so they can change the survival prospects of all these precious species,” he observed.