A major meeting on the plight of endangered species wrapped up Thursday with a victory for shark conservationists and increased pressure on countries to curb rampant illegal trade in ivory.
In what was hailed as a "historic day" for the world's oldest predator, protection for the oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle, three types of hammerhead and the manta ray won final approval by the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
On the final day of more than a week of talks in the Thai capital Bangkok, Japan along with China and other nations that support shark fishing lost an 11th-hour bid to overturn the landmark deal.
"Shark populations are in freefall, but have been thrown a lifeline today -- CITES has finally listened to the scientists," said Glenn Sant of wildlife trade protection group Traffic.
Rather than a complete ban, countries will be required to regulate trade by issuing export permits to ensure the sustainability of sharks in the wild, otherwise they could face sanctions by members of CITES, a global treaty that protects some 35,000 species.
The United States hailed the agreement as a "historic moment in shark and ray conservation".
In total, more than 300 threatened species won increased protection at the meeting, including dozens of types of turtles and timber.
The illegal ivory trade was at the top of the agenda with eight nations accused of failing to do enough to tackle the problem.
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as transit countries Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and top markets China and Thailand were identified as making insufficient efforts to curb the trade.
But they avoided sanctions after submitting -- or pledging to submit -- draft action plans that must be finalised by May, with the possibility that sanctions would be revisited if they do not make progress by July 2014. More....