Introductory remarks by Minister Counsellor Silberberg on Shark Conservation

Jan 23, 2013

(Event: Introductory remarks by Minister Counsellor Silberberg on Shark Conservation at an event at the German House)

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"Excellencies, Dear Ambassador Flores, Dear Mr. Ashe, Dear colleagues and guests,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to welcome you to the Permanent Mission of Germany for a discussion on shark conservation, an issue not very common to our day-to-day agenda here in New York. Shark conservation will be an important agenda item at the upcoming 16thConference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which will be held in Bangkok in March. 175 countries are members of CITES, which is a quasi-universal convention.

I am grateful to Ambassador Flores of Honduras and Mr. Ashe, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who have agreed to co-host this event with Germany and the PEW Foundation.

I also have the honor to welcome H.E. Mr. Ulibarri, Ambassador of Costa Rica, Mr. Barsch from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, and Ms. Liebermann, Director of International Policy for PEW.

Let me now turn to the issue at stake: shark conservation at the next CITES CoP.

Sharks are scary to many people. And a few shark species may be in rare cases dangerous to swimmers and divers. However, emotions triggered by Hollywood Blockbusters are not justified by the reality. We should rather fear the loss of these creatures, as they play an essential role in the oceans; they maintain healthy, balanced ecosystems by serving as top predator. We still know little about sharks, but we better start protecting and sustainably managing them before these amazing creatures are gone and we painfully understand the crucial role they had in delivering marine ecosystem services to us.

The numbers of several shark species have already declined tremendously, mainly caused by over-fishing for their meat and fins. Many of these species are threatened with extinction.

EU Member States are among the world’s largest consumers of shark meat. Hence we feel committed to contribute substantively to the recovery and sustainable use of sharks.

In 2009, the European Union adopted a shark action plan. Since 2010, target fisheries for the Porbeagle in EU waters and for all EU fleets worldwide are banned.

However, as the Porbeagle and other shark species are very slow to recover and as over-exploitation is still ongoing worldwide, their populations are declining at an alarming rate. In order to reverse the worldwide situation for sharks, we urgently need to sustainably manage the trade in these species at the global scale.

There is no efficient international framework in place to secure sharks. Many sharks have longer reproduction cycles than we humans. Thus the regeneration of depleted populations takes decades. CITES is the only globally binding protective shield that we can use to support the recovery of shark populations in the long term.

During today´s event we want to discuss the critical situation of the Porbeagle, the oceanic whitetip, the hammerhead sharks and manta rays. Proposals to list these species in Annex II of CITES in order to better protect them have been submitted to the next CITES CoP in March this year in Bangkok. Some countries around this table are aleady co-sponsors of these proposals and we invite all countries to support these proposals.

We need better protection but we do not want a complete ban on trade in these shark species. Domestic fishing and consumption on sharks would also not be affected, because CITES only regulates international trade. Rather, listing these species in CITES Appendix 2 would ensure that only products from sustainably fished stocks were traded internationally. Fishing nations with healthy stocks could continue to export their shark products. Where stocks are in a bad conservation status, CITES measures would help these stocks to recover and thus ensure that these fisheries have a future.

Thank you very much for your attention. I am looking forward to a lively discussion and count on your support to achieve the necessary majority for the listing of these shark species.

Now let me hand over to Ambassador Flores, who would like to welcome you on behalf of Honduras."

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