Japan to reject int'l regulation on trade in sharks

Japan will reject the recent decision by Washington Convention member countries to regulate international trade in sharks whose populations have sharply declined due to overhunting for their fins, government sources said Friday.

Tokyo will file a reservation about the regulation arguing that sharks should be managed under existing fishery management organs, the sources said. But the move may come under international fire as another sign of the negative attitude of a country known for its heavy seafood consumption toward global efforts to preserve endangered marine resources, experts said.

Signatories to the 1973 pact, officially called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, decided in March at a conference in Bangkok to require exporting countries to issue certificates of permission for international trade in sharks. The decision drew support from more than two-thirds of the voters.

Japan's reservation, to be filed with the CITES secretariat, will cover three species of hammerhead shark plus oceanic whitetip sharks and porbeagle sharks, the sources said, adding that the country will accept another decision to regulate trade in manta rays.

Fisheries Agency data show that annual hauls of oceanic whitetip sharks in Japan stood at about 40 tons in 2011, some of which appeared to be exported as shark fins.

Japan has already rejected CITES decisions to ban trade in seven species of whales, such as sperm and minke whales, and regulate trade in basking sharks, whale sharks, great white sharks and seahorses.