PANAMA CITY - Delegates to a global summit on trade in endangered species have been postponed until Friday Nov 25 to vote on whether to approve a proposal to protect sharks, a move that could drastically reduce the lucrative and often cruel shark fin trade.
The proposal would place dozens of species of the requiem shark and hammerhead shark families on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species CITES. The appendix lists species that may not yet be threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade in them is closely controlled.
If the plenary meeting gives the green light, it would be a historic decision, said Shirley Binder, a Panamanian delegate who presided over the meeting.
She said that CITES would handle a very large number of shark species, which would be approximately 90 per cent of the market.
Although a vote had been planned for Thursday, Binder suspended the session late in the afternoon and moved it to Friday, as debate over the hippo trade between the European Union and African countries dragged on.
In Asia, the appetite for shark fins, which make their way onto dinner tables in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, has spurred their trade.
Shark fin soup is viewed as a delicacy and is enjoyed by the very wealthy, often at weddings and expensive banquets despite being described as almost tasteless and gelatinous.
Shark fins, representing a market of about US $500 million a year, can sell for about $1,000 a kilogram.