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U.S. Leads Efforts To Strengthen Global Shark Conservation

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At the urging of the Department of State-led U.S. delegation to the United Nations, member states last week agreed to strengthen protections for vulnerable and endangered shark populations around the world. The agreed language calls on individual nations and international fisheries organizations to take immediate and concerted actions to improve shark conservation and management and to better enforce existing rules on shark fishing, including bans on shark finning. The resolution calls for, among other things, establishing limits on shark catches, improved assessment of the health of shark stocks, reducing the unintended capture of sharks, and limiting shark fisheries until management measures are adopted.

Ensuring effective conservation and management of sharks is a high priority for the United States. Sharks are particularly susceptible to overexploitation because they are typically long-lived, slow-growing, and produce few young. Many shark species are apex predators and are vital to the health of the ecosystems they inhabit, so their conservation is an integral part of ecosystem-based fisheries management. Sharks are currently taken in fisheries directed for sharks, and are also caught incidentally in fisheries directed for other species.

Sharks are also subject to the practice of "finning," which is the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard of shark carcasses at sea. One key aspect of the language agreed at the UN negotiations is the call for improved compliance with current bans on shark finning, including measures requiring that sharks be landed with fins attached.

The language will be included and considered during the week of December 10 as part of a larger annual UN resolution on fisheries. The United States intends to build on the success achieved at the UNGA by promoting shark conservation in other multilateral fora, including the U.S.-led Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking and appropriate Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

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