Urge Panama to Protect Endangered Sharks

Target: President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama

Goal: Regulate trade of endangered oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, and porbeagle sharks

Every year, millions of sharks are killed for their fins. As a result, most shark species have gone from plentiful to endangered over a span of only 50 years. Oceanic whitetip populations are estimated to have declined over 99% from the 1950s to the 1990s due to shark finning. Next month the Convention of International Trade in Regulated Species (CITES) will consider proposals to regulate trade of the oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, and porbeagle.

Over 50% of the shark fin trade occurs in Hong Kong, where shark fins are kept on industrial rooftops away from horrified passerby. But international trade makes it harder to regulate, meaning an international treaty is required to halt shark fin trade. In 2011, customs inspectors found almost half a ton of illegally obtained hammerhead shark fins at Panama’s international airport. The order came from Ecuador and was being shipped to New York City.

The CITES meeting will take place in Thailand from March 3-14. The United States, Brazil, the European Union, Honduras, Comoros, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, and Egypt have demonstrated their support for shark conservation, and call upon other countries to join them in the fight to keep endangered sharks from going extinct. The sharks would be listed under Appendix II, meaning trade must be controlled in order to ensure their survival. Panama may cast the decisive vote for this proposal. Please urge Panama to support an Appendix II listing of oceanic whitetips, porbeagles, and hammerhead sharks.


Dear President Martinelli,

First of all, we would like to congratulate Panama’s work so far in halting the shark fin trade: shark finning has been illegal in Panama since 2006. However, millions of sharks are still killed for their fins every year, and further efforts are needed to stop their extinction.

It is hard to track specific shark species because shark products generally don’t distinguish between species. But most sharks have become endangered over a span of just 50 years due to the shark fin trade. It is estimated that oceanic whitetip shark populations have decreased by over 99% since the 1950s. Only their fins are used: the rest of the shark is thrown into the ocean to drown.

We urge Panama to sign the proposal protecting hammerhead, porbeagle, and oceanic whitetip sharks at the Convention of International Trade in Regulated Species (CITES) on March 3-14. The last porbeagle protection proposal lost by only one vote. Please help us to ensure that these sharks will not become extinct.


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