Washington D.C. – Today, Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) expressing concern that shark species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are being exported from the United States in violation of the law and at risk of the species. The letter was cosigned by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), all members of the Natural Resources Committee.
The full letter is available at https://bit.ly/2PVClCu.
CITES was created to ensure that international trade of wild animals and plants do not threaten their survival. 14 shark species are listed under CITES, Appendix II and only four are illegal to catch in the United States. The remaining protected species can be legally exported out of the United States if the exporter obtains a CITES export permit from FWS that determines the export is not detrimental to the survival of the species, and the specimen was acquired legally.
However, the letter notes that NOAA databases show CITES-listed species are actively being fished in the United States and sharks are being exported overseas:
“Nearly 3 million kilograms of shark meat and fins worth over $11 million were exported out of the United States in 2018. However, according to FWS, there was not a single export permit granted for any species of shark in 2018. With 3 million kilograms of shark products exported during 2018, it seems improbable that there were zero exports of Appendix II-listed shark species.”
The lawmakers point out that the lack of oversight in CITES export permit management could be detrimental to listed shark populations and counter to the intent of CITES. They demand answers from the government agencies on the irregularities of this data and warn that if protected sharks are being illegally exported, the United States is contributing to the global problem of overfishing sharks.
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