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Three shark species given additional Cites protection

Conservation body votes in additional protection for oceanic whitetip, hammerhead varieties and the porbeagle — although vote could be overturned.

Shark fins 2012 10 16Enlarge
Shark fins in a bag await delivery at a wholesale warehouse in Hong Kong, where they will be used for dishes like shark fin soup. Conservationists have fought to stop the practice of shark finning. (Laurent Fievet/AFP/Getty Images)

The 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora voted on March 11 to grant additional protection to the oceanic whitetip, porbeagle manta rays and three species of hammerhead shark, species that are currently at risk from the "finning" trade.

Those wishing to fish for the fins of these species will now have to clear a more stringent permit system to export the fins, a long-awaited victory for conservationists, who were previously opposed on the matter by shark-fin eating China and Japan, wrote the Guardian.

Read more from GlobalPost: In Asia, tide slowly turning against shark fin soup

"During their lifetimes they have relatively few offspring and they only start reproducing at a relatively late age -- they're more like mammals in many ways than fish," said WWF expert Colman O'Criodain to AFP of the move.

The trade in these species won't be banned entirely, notes AAP, but will function to protect declining populations of sharks, hit by an ever-increasing demand for status-symbol shark fin soup.

"The tide is now turning for shark conservation," said Elizabeth Wilson of Pew's Global Shark Conservation Campaign to AAP of the measures. "With these new protections, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem."

Sharks aren't completely out of the proverbial woods yet: the decision could be overturned by a vote at the end of the week's Bangkok meeting, noted the BBC, although growing support from South America and West Africa for conservation measures indicate it's likely to stand.

"They've come to realise, particularly for those with hammerhead stocks, the tourist value of these species and the long term future that will be protected by a Cites listing," said Dr Colman O'Criodain from WWF International of the attitude shift to the BBC.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/130311/three-shark-species-given-additional-cites-protection