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Samoa takes the floor at the CMS COP12 in the battle to protect the blue shark

"The fishery for blue sharks has been estimated to remove 20 million animals every year, this may well be the single largest removal of a large wild vertebrate from the ecosystem in the world." – Ms. Gillian Shirley Tuagalu, Samoa Delegation, CMS COP12

26 October 2017, Manila, Philippines – Strong support for the proposal from Samoa and Sri Lanka to list the blue shark on Appendix II off the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wildlife (CMS) was shown today at the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the CMS.
 
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Samoa presented the joint proposal to the floor of the meeting, for which the majority of the Parties expressed their support, we bring you the full statement from Samoa by Ms. Gillian Shirley Tuagalu, Samoa Delegation, CMS COP12:

"Thank you Chair,

As it's the first time Samoa's taken the floor, I wish to acknowledge and thank the Government of Philippines for its warm hospitality and hosting of this COP 12.

On behalf of the Government of Samoa, I have the honour of presenting to you our proposal (which is a joint proposal together with Sri Lanka) to list blue sharks on Appendix II of CMS. The 21 Island Countries and Territories in the Pacific Region are all Large Ocean States, with management responsibilities of over 10% of the planet's ocean area, with migratory marine species, connecting us as people of the Pacific, but more importantly, people of the ocean.

Over the past 150 years, our Pacific people have seen their iconic species hunted or fished by industrialised and developed countries from outside our region, and many have been reduced to depressingly low levels.

Samoa has therefore opted to play a more prominent role in the global community to promote awareness, "conservation" – and importantly, to promote the link between conservation and sustainable fishing. We have been inspired by the success of our Pacific island colleagues and other small island countries in promoting the listing of sharks, rays and other migratory species on the CMS Appendices, and it is my privilege to present to you Samoa's proposal to list blue sharks on Appendix II, and to thank the Government of Sri Lanka as a co-proponent and Fiji, Cook Islands and Palau as well as other parties who have also supported our joint proposal.

Samoa has reviewed the comments from stakeholders that have been received by the Secretariat, and I would like to make just a few comments. While stock assessments undertaken by one of the RFMOs found blue shark stocks to be able to sustain the current levels of take, which have increased by 50% in recent years, this might not be the situation in other ocean areas.

Furthermore, as the RFMO noted, stock assessments are an inherently inaccurate exercise. Even if the data provided is comprehensive and reliable, a great many assumptions need to be made in any assessment. Unfortunately, the reality is that for most of the industrialised shark fisheries, and certainly for the Pacific Ocean, the observer coverage on board longline vessels is extremely low – between 2-5%. Additionally, many vessels trans-ship on the high seas, with no observer on board either the fishing vessel or the receiving vessel. Therefore, the data that go into a stock assessment are in all likelihood unreliable, and are more likely to under-estimate than to over-estimate the extent of stock depletion.

Another feature of the fisheries managers' world view is that stock assessments tend to ignore ecological impacts. In the Pacific, we are convinced that the over-fishing of sharks is causing clear and demonstrable impacts on the trophic relationships between fish species on our coral reefs, contributing to a decline in reef health throughout our region.

In conclusion, the fishery for blue sharks has been estimated to remove 20 million animals every year – this may well be the single largest removal of a large wild vertebrate from the ecosystem in the world. Listing blue sharks on Appendix II of CMS will not shut down the fishery nor have any negative impacts – however it will help raise awareness among CMS parties on the need to coordinate proactive responses and collaborate better to find out more about the real status and trends of this iconic ocean traveller, and to take further steps if necessary to ensure the maintenance and presence of healthy population of blue sharks for future generations of Pacific islanders and the world to enjoy.

Samoa wishes to encourage the support of all parties to our joint proposal with Sri Lanka and reiterate again the CMS powerful theme - "their future is our future."

Thank you."
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The CMS COP12 is held from 23 to 28 October, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Under the CMS Groupings, the Pacific islands is part of the Oceania Region which consists of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines and Samoa. For more information please visit: http://www.cms.int/en/cop12

Work to enhance and strengthen Pacific representation and engagement at the CMS COP12 is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts as well as the Second Phase of the ACPMEA project, an initiative of the African Caribbean Pacific group of countries, funded by the European Union, implemented in partnership by UN Environment and executed by SPREP.
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