Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks
|Signed||1 March 2010|
|Effective||1 March 2010|
|Languages||English, French and Spanish|
The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks is an international instrument for the conservation of migratory species of sharks. It was founded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS; also known as the Bonn Convention).
Many sharks are apex predators and keystone species, meaning that they are at the top of their food chain and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine environments. Sharks whose members cyclically and predictably move large distances are considered migratory and many pelagic (open ocean) shark species fall into this category. The IUCN considers one third of all shark species as threatened or near threatened. For migratory sharks the situation is worse, with almost 50% being considered as threatened and 27% being considered as near threatened. Relatively little is known about the behavior of migratory sharks; researchers have been surprised by data on their migrations. Knowledge of 47% of sharks is too limited to determine a conservation status.
Before the Migratory Shark MoU was developed, there were no international standards for the management of migratory sharks. Sharks that migrate can travel great distances in the world's oceans, with the whale shark being recorded on journeys of up to 13,000 kilometres (8,100 mi) long. These extensive migrations frequently and inevitably involve the crossing of national boundaries and through international waters; as the national regulations of coastal nations only apply to 200 nautical miles (370 km) of their coastlines, large parts of these journeys are consequently unregulated.
The MoU is aimed at facilitating international coordination for the protection, conservation and management of the sharks involved, through multilateral, intergovernmental discussion and scientific research. It is a global non-binding treaty aimed at improving "compliance and enforcement efforts" for states whose waters are inhabited by these sharks and to states whose flagships pass through international waters inhabited by these sharks. Signatories to this treaty intend to expand information sharing.
The memorandum states:
"The objective of this Memorandum of Understanding is to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for migratory sharks based on the best available scientific information, taking into account the socio-economic and other values of these species for the people of the Signatory States."
For the purpose of the MoU, sharks include all species in the class Chondrichthyes, which cover sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras. Currently there are 7 species listed in Annex I of the MoU, although the annex may be edited following consensus obtained at a meeting of the memorandum's signatories.
- Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
- Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
- Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)
- Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
- Longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus)
- Porbeagle (Lamna nasus)
- Northern hemisphere populations of the Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
The MoU is a legally non-binding agreement that currently has 27 Signatories, including the European Union. About 40 national governments agreed to the original adoption of the MoU. Eleven of these signed it on 12 February 2010, although only 10 were needed. The MoU goes into immediate effect for signatories. The original signatories were:
- Costa Rica
- United States
Nauru and Tuvalu signed on 9 September 2010. Australia signed on 4 February 2011. Sharks were already protected in Australian waters, but the government intends to work closely to distribute more information to other signatories. Chile signed on 6 May 2011. South Africa signed on 12 May 2011. In November 2011, the European Union signed on to the MOU along with the European nations of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, and Romania. The United Kingdom signed in June 2012. Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Indian Ocean Territory, and the Isle of Man, all dependencies of the United Kingdom, also signed the agreement. Vanuatu signed in February 2013. In October 16, 2013, Colombia became the 27th country to the sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks.
After two initial meetings in 2007 and 2008, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed into effect on 1 March 2010, in the city of Manila, meeting the required amount of 10 signatures, and taking effect immediately for each signatory. It has been adopted by over 40 states in total. The original text is written in English, French, and Spanish, and its creation was chaired by the Philippines.
The First Meeting of Signatories to the Sharks MoU was held in Bonn, Germany, 24–27 September 2012. At the meeting, Signatory States adopted a new conservation plan, which aims to catalyze regional initiatives to reduce threats to migratory sharks. Signatory states also agreed to involve fishing industry representatives, NGOs, and scientists in implementing the conservation plan.
Meetings of Signatories are organized regularly to review the conservation status of the species and the implementation of the MoU and Action Plan. At the meetings there is also a possibility to sign the MoU.
A Conservation Plan has been adopted by the Signatories in 2012 whose implementation forms the basis of the ongoing work under the MOU. A favourable conservation status is achieved when the abundance and structure of populations of migratory sharks remains at levels adequate to maintain ecosystem integrity. The Conservation Plan, listed in Annex 3 of the MoU, is based on five objectives to achieve this goal:
- Improving the understanding of migratory shark populations through research, monitoring and information exchange
- Ensuring that directed and non-directed fisheries for sharks are sustainable
- Ensuring to the extent practicable the protection of critical habitats and migratory corridors and critical life stages of sharks
- Increasing public awareness of threats to sharks and their habitats, and enhance public participation in conservation activities
- Enhancing national, regional and international cooperation
It requires the cooperation among governments, fishing industries, NGOs, local communities and scientists. An Advisory Committee has been established to provide expert advice and suggestions on new initiatives for the implementation of the plan.
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