RESTRICTIONS on the volume of Fiji's shark trade will be enforced in 18 months.
This after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) allowed the proposal to upgrade its listing of five threatened shark species and the manta ray in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday.
CITES' 178 member countries agreed to give the oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead shark, great hammerhead shark and smooth hammerhead shark (sphyrna lewini, s mokarran and s zygaena) appendix II status, which requires countries to regulate trade of a species by issuing export permits to ensure their sustainability in the wild.
Failure to comply with the decision can result in sanctions.
Conservationists rejoiced when Japan and China failed to gather one-third required votes to reopen debate on the proposal to upgrade the listings.
Pew environment group global shark campaigner Angelo Villagomez, who has been lobbying for shark protection in Fiji's waters for the past two years, said it was good news for the islands.
"It's important to note that this is not a trade ban, but a restriction in the volume of trade. This listing will improve data collection. In 18 months, the Fijian government will have to issue export permits for these species. Countries accepting the fins will only be able to do so if they have this export permit, if they don't, they will have violated the regulations," he said from Bangkok.
"If the importing country finds that there is no export permit from the source country, they can fine the trader according to that country's laws.
"The listing of these species is exciting and a game changer, but there is still a lot of work to do. There are many more species of sharks that are threatened with extinction, including many of Fiji's species."
Local shark campaigner Manoa Rasigatale said the future looked bright in the ocean.
"This is great news for our people," he said. "Without the sharks our marine ecosystem will collapse. We now have a chance to save them and our ecosystem."
In a recent survey, scientists estimated 100 million sharks were killed annually for the fin trade.