The 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties of CITES was held from the 2nd to the 14th of October 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. On the 12th of October 2004, the 166 member parties voted on the joint proposal from Madagascar and Australia to list the Great White Shark on CITES Appendix II. This long awaited proposal was accepted with 72% of favorable votes by secret ballow (87 in favour, 34 opposed and 9 abstentions).

The best and most wonderful news for Great White Sharks since they got protected in South Africa in 1991!!!!!!!

The Great White Shark has been protected in national waters of South Africa since April 1991. South Africa was the first country to take this step, which encouraged other countries, including Namibia (1993), California (USA, 1994), the Eastern United States coastline (1997), Australia (1997) and Malta (2000), to undergo similar national protection legislations within a few years. On an international level, White Sharks are also listed on several international agreements:

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (vulnerable category);
  • CITES Appendix III (Australia, 2001);
  • Convention on Migratory Species (CMS Appendix I & II);
  • UN Convention on the Law of the Sea  (UNCLOS);
  • Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Annex II);
  • Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Appendix II in the Mediterranean).

Unfortunately, most of these agreements have failed to provide the White Shark with the necessary protection. These agreements rely on the signatory countries to comply on a voluntary basis, and non-complying parties are rarely subject to any pressure to comply or threatened with enforcement with the legal power that these agreements provide…

White Sharks are still targeted directly by illegal trophy hunters, sport fishermen and by beach protection nets.

In South Africa, where White Sharks are protected, 20-60 White Sharks are caught annually in the protective beach nets along the Durban coastline. Poachers, who target these sharks for their jaws and fins, and spear-fishermen, kill an estimated 30-100 additional White Sharks annually. To those numbers, trawlers and long-lining fisheries possibly catch another 20-100 White Sharks in our national waters every year.

Internationally, White Shark products are in high demand according to the number of dedicated web sites selling teeth and jaws. The origin of these sales usually do not correspond to White Shark ‘hot spots’, hence the origin of these products are traded on an international level.

White Shark jaws have been sold for prices fetching over 50’000 US$ and individual teeth are sold for several hundred dollars.

The disappearance of the famous White Shark jaws exhibited in a local fishery shop in Gansbaai leaves many people suspicious about their present whereabouts, placing further suspicion on possible international trade… Hence some other form of international legislation was necessary to protect White Sharks from extinction…

In May 2004, Madagascar and Australia proposed the White Shark for listing on the CITES Appendix II listing.

At the moment, from 2-14 October, CITES is holding its Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, Thailand, during which this proposal was subject to a general vote by the 166 member States.

On Tuesday the 12th of October 2004, the Great White Shark passed the necessary two-thirds majority vote with 72% in favour listing White Sharks on Appendix II.

This truly is a memorable and very important day for White Sharks and their survival.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between Governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens and products of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). As a result of this convention, not one species protected by CITES has become extinct as a result of trade since the Convention was enforced.

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. These require that all import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention have to be authorized through a licensing system.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three appendixes, according to the degree of protection they need:

  • Appendix I controls species whose existence is so threatened that trade is banned. Covers some 1,000 plants and animals, e.g. Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, Great Apes;
  • Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. Covers 4,500 animal species and 28,000 plants, e.g. African Penguins;
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Covers 290 species that are protected in at least one country.

The White Shark Trust has been conducting an extensive and ongoing study of the Great White Shark population since 1997 using a photographic identification system designed by Michael Scholl. Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) has established an array of electronic monitors in Mossel Bay, at Dyer Island and in False Bay tracking the movements and residency patterns of White Sharks tagged with ultrasonic transmitters since 2001. In 2002, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and MCM initiated a satellite-tagging project in South Africa. The important South African White Shark cage diving tourism industry has provided a very important educational tool in allowing thousands of people to discover White Sharks in their natural environment, creating an equal number of enthusiastic White Shark ambassadors around the world. The results of these projects strengthened the proposal for White Sharks to be listed today on the CITES Appendix II.

In September 2004, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) listed the Great White Shark among the ten species of animals and trees it believes will most likely become extinct. This fresh and rejuvenating achievement of listing these Sharks on the CITES list, represents a new hope for White Sharks around the world, and hopefully the WWF predictions will be proven to be wrong in many years to come.

The scientific community, the tourism industry, and nature enthusiasts can all rejoice today, but the battle to save and protect Sharks is far from over. Over 100 million sharks are still killed every year in the world for their fins and jaws…

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