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Environmentalists Warn of Shark Troubles, Urge Conservation, and Make Recommendations

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SHANGHAI, China -- Experts on shark conservation, research and management from Australia, China, Singapore, United States and United Kingdom, recently participated in the International Shark Conservation Meeting in Beijing, China.

The shark experts said many species of shark are facing a serious threat to their existence because of worldwide fishing trends. Fishermen "used to cut the lines and let sharks go," said Pete Kinghts, executive director of WildAid, a San Francisco-based conservation group, told the shark conservation conference. In recent years, however, fishermen have kept the sharks to sell their lucrative fins.

One-third of the more than 500 shark species are threatened with extinction or are close to being threatened, said Sarah Fowler of the World Conservation Union.

Fisheries can remove 50 to 90 percent of an entire shark (species) in only 10 years," said Fowler, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

WildAid, which co-sponsored the conference, persuaded NBA star Yao Ming in August to pledge to give up eating shark's fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, as part of a campaign to promote wildlife protection in his homeland.

WildAid says China is the world's biggest importer of shark's fins, which conservationists say are cut from sharks that are thrown back into the ocean to die. WildAid put the worldwide trade in shark's fins at 10,000 tons a year.

Fowler estimated that 38 to 70 million sharks are killed each year for their fins.

As part of the meeting, the panel of experts drew up an official consensus, which follows:

Sharks have swum the world's oceans for over 400 million years – long before the first dinosaurs appeared on land. They inhabit every ocean and play a vital role in the health of marine ecosystems, and they are considered of significant ecological, scientific, and economic value. Therefore, it is important to conserve sharks for marine ecology, the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of sustainable development. Throughout the world, sharks are being threatened due to human activity and need to be conserved by global efforts. The experts make the following recommendations: 1. To conserve sharks we should expand regional cooperation, enhance data collection and information exchange, and promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation. 2. Increase the funding for professional training, research activities, and the improvement of science and technology for shark conservation. 3. Actively conduct shark conservation activities, enhancing the management of shark fishing, minimizing by-catch and resource waste, promoting sustainable utilization. 4. Stop illegal fishing, strictly control coastal residential and industrial waste discharge, and protect the marine environment. 5. Improve awareness of marine ecosystem conservation, enhancing public education, and conserving sharks and their habitats. The Earth is a blue planet. The sea is humanity's means of livelihood. The length and breadth of the sea has bred several thousand years of human culture. Let us collectively conserve our sharks, marine environment and share the deep blue sea with our marine species, to build a harmonious and glorious future between humans and nature.

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