Hammerhead shark, © Barry Peters

A Shark Workshop

Earlier this year, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Defenders worked hard to establish new international regulations on the shark trade, hoping to put a stop to the rapid rate at which many shark species are declining. Thankfully, we were successful! New regulations were put in place for three species of hammerhead sharks, as well as porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks. The listings go into effect in September of 2014. Until then, we’re hard at work on the next step: How to help officials and other representatives from countries around the world put these regulations into practice. We’re focusing especially on countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, since they have shown the most interest in actively working to protect sharks and enact these new regulations.

Shark workshop, © Victor Souza, ICMBIO

People from 28 countries attended the workshop in Brazil (© Victor Souza, ICMBIO)

In early December, I traveled to the city of Recife, Brazil, to represent Defenders of Wildlife at an international workshop on shark identification that we helped organize. It was a joint effort with many other parties, including the governments of Brazil, the United States, the CITES Secretariat, Teyeliz, Humane Society International, Species Survival Network and the Organization of American States. More than 70 representatives from 28 countries (including CITES representatives and officials from various nations’ fishery agencies) participated in the workshop, and many more will benefit from the materials and other work that went into it. Every presentation was streamed live, and all the materials are now available online , allowing even more representatives to benefit even if they couldn’t attend in person.

The workshop offered information on a variety of topics including:

  • Improving the accuracy of shark catch data to comply with Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO) recommendations
  • Learning to correctly identify shark species and their fins
  • Developing a chain of custody to facilitate making legal acquisition findings for exports of sharks listed in CITES Appendices.

For a long time, one of the main arguments of those who have opposed any regulation on the shark fin trade has been that it is just too hard to tell which species of shark is which based on the fin alone, and that it would be unjust to regulate something that people couldn’t identify. We put the final nail in the coffin of that outdated and completely false excuse during the more hands-on part of the workshop. We taught participants how to use several different methods to identify shark species, including the shark identification guides we created, as well as fin identification guides, DNA testing, and a software program for sharks and fins identification that the Food and Agriculture Organization is testing.

Shark identification guides, © Victor Souza, ICMBIO

Defenders created shark identification guides in multiple languages (© Victor Souza, ICMBIO)

During the workshop’s second session, we divided the participants into regional groups (South Atlantic, South Pacific, Caribbean, and Central America) so that they could get information and ask questions specific to their region. They heard directly from the CITES Secretariat, as well as from government officials who already have experience preparing chain of custodies for marine species (an important part of these new regulations), as well as developing legal acquisition findings. Each group came away with a better idea of what they will need to implement the new regulations from the CITES shark listings.

The workshop also provided the participants with an important chance to connect with one another. As the communications network grows between officials in these countries, they’ll be better able to talk to one another to get advice on how to implement these new regulations, and discuss what methods and techniques have worked best for them.

All in all, the workshop was a great success! Now these officials have all returned to their various countries to teach their own colleagues about what they learned, and, where needed, start to reforming their practices. Soon, we hope to see the waters in this region become much safer for sharks, giving these ancient predators and the ocean life that rely on them a more secure future.

Alejandra Goyenechea, International Counsel

5 Responses to “A Shark Workshop”

  1. Vinny Byrne

    Kudos to both teams; First to Defenders for putting in the time, effort, and education, as well as the creation of an effective shark identification kit. Secondly, and just as important to this geographically based shark viability equation are the Latin and South American countries caring enough to become aware through education. Knowledge is the key ingredient in the recipe of change.

  2. akin

    About time to start saving the orcas from those wicked people the owners of the spermbank!!!!seaworld, waterworld, tragic captivation and separation of baby and mother orcas, I found it quite sad , how a civilised!!!country allow this happens, hard to believe this day and age, no difference from guantanamo, only the orcas going back 50 years , down with capitalism, and damn the sperm usary….regards to people who cares…

  3. María Elena Sánchez

    Great work from Juan Carlos Cantú Program Director of Defenders of Wildlife México who designed the the 4 regional shark ID guides! And his presentation was exelent during the workshop.
    His work has been recognized by many countries and Peru, for instance ask him to help them to produce their own shar ID guide. Also Brazil is now working with him to translate Defender’s shark ID guides into Portuguese ! Congrats Juan Carlos!

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