Oceanic whitetip sharks have declined dramatically and need to be protected. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is the only international body that can provide meaningful global protection.
The United States government has been expected to propose oceanic whitetips for Appendix II listing at CITES. However, the October 4th deadline is approaching and there is still no sign of a proposal.
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Why protect oceanic whitetips: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Critically Endangered in the northwest and central Atlantic Oceans and Vulnerable elsewhere. Populations have declined by 99% in the Gulf of Mexico, by 70% in the Northwest and West Central Atlantic, and are regionally extinct in the Eastern Pacific. Oceanic whitetips are sought after for their fins and they are one of the species most prevalent in the shark fin trade.
The United States led the effort to list the oceanic whitetip at the 2010 CITES Conference and the proposal came very close to being adopted. There is abundant data to demonstrate that oceanic whitetip sharks are highly vulnerable and in need of protection. They provide no economic value to the United States.
The United States should take the lead again and propose the listing of oceanic whitetip sharks at CITES this coming March.
Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)
o 70% decline from 1992 to 2000 in the Northwest and West Central Atlantic
(US Pelagic Longline logbook data; Baum et al. 2003)
o 99% decline in 40 years in the Gulf of Mexico (US Pelagic Longline logbook data; Baum and Myers 2004)
o 90% percent decline in biomass in the Pacific
(pelagic longline surveys and observer data; Ward and Myers, 2005)
o Virtual extirpation in Eastern Pacific
(Purse seine data; Román-Verdesoto and Orozco-Zöller, 2005)