The 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP11) will start in Quito, Ecuador, from tomorrow. This conference will see delegates deciding on a number of important issues, some of which are relevant to the Galapagos Islands.
The governments of Ecuador and Costa Rica will be presenting a proposal to list two species of hammerhead shark (scalloped, Sphyrna lewini, and great, S.mokorran) under Appendix II of the Convention, seeking to achieve international agreement about the conservation of these valuable species.
The scalloped hammerhead is certainly a species of high economic importance to Galapagos. As one of the last remaining places in the world where large schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks come together, thousands of tourists visit Galapagos every year to dive with them.
However their value is much more than just financial. The ecological importance of large predatory species such as hammerhead sharks is well documented. Removing such species from an ecosystem can cause disturbance all the way down the food chain and drastically alter ecological conditions.
Despite this, a recent press release from the Galapagos National Park (GNP) stated that “between 1.3 million and 2.7 million hammerheads are exploited for the fin trade” globally each year. Sharks are legally protected within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, but satellite tracking studies have shown that some species, including scalloped hammerheads, migrate long distances outside of protected waters, highlighting the importance of the upcoming conference.
The CMS is an international treaty of the United Nations Program for Environmental Protection, which aims to ensure the survival of migratory species and their habitats, through the implementation of local and international mechanisms. It provides a legal framework for internationally coordinated conservation measures for migratory species. Delegates from over 170 countries are expected to attend the conference. Other topics on the agenda include management of marine debris, the illegal trade in migratory birds and a programme of work on climate change and migratory species.
We will keep you updated on progress.
by Pete Haskell