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CITES puts teeth into regulating trade in sharks

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GENEVA (Reuters) – Countries at a meeting on the global wildlife trade agreed on Sunday to strengthen protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, including those whose fins are prized for making Chinese soups.

The species will be listed on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II if the preliminary decision is endorsed this week, meaning trade in products will be controlled but not banned.

“Today’s listing reflects the realization that uncontrolled trade will decimate shark populations,” Elizabeth Murdock of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said.

Two species of mako sharks are among the 18.

“These two species, the ‘cheetahs of the ocean’, play key roles as top predators in the world’s high seas, and are highly valued for their meat, along with their fins, and are caught in huge numbers globally in commercial and recreational fisheries,” Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

The other species include the flattened relatives of sharks called wedgefish and giant guitarfish, the most threatened marine fish in the world.

“(Their) fins are the most expensive in international markets, where they are prized for use in shark fin soup,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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