The final form and text of the MoU was agreed during the Sharks III meeting held in Manila, Philippines between the 8-12 February, and was the third meeting held between member states of the CMS and interested parties to develop an international instrument to conserve migratory sharks.Heated discussions during the drafting of the text at Sharks III
This process started in November 2005 when Seychelles, Australia and New Zealand proposed that an instrument should be developed at the eighth Council of Parties (COP) in Kenya. The first meeting, Sharks I was held in Seychelles in 2007 and saw the ground work laid for further development basing its work on the listed shark species in Appendix 1 & 2, the whale shark, basking shark and great white shark. It was hoped that this would be finalised at the next COP (COP 9 Rome December 2008) but progress had not been sufficient and a second dedicated meeting was held immediately after the COP.
However, at COP 9 the shortfin and longfin mako sharks, porbeagle shark and the spiny dogfish (northern hemisphere) were all added to Appendix II, thus adding species which were commercially harvested to this appendix and consequently potential species for the Migratory Sharks agreement.
Sharks II thus now had some new challenges to face with the addition of these new species. The primary aim of this meeting was to decide if this should be a legally binding ‘Agreement’ on a non-legally binding Memorandum of Understanding; it was agreed that this should be an MoU.
This brings us to Sharks III where the debates were long and at time heated. There were actually two elements that required much discussion: firstly whether the ‘new’ sharks species should be considered in the MoU, and secondly, the development of the Conservation and Management Plan (CMP).
After some very long debates the consensus was to include all seven currently listed species, but not to have automatic inclusion if new sharks were listed on the Appendices of CMS. This decision will thus enabled signatories to the MoU the possibility to choose species that are not listed on the CMS Appendices.
As ten countries were prepared to sign the MoU at the end of the meeting, this meant that the instrument would come into force on the first day of the following month, March 1st 2010. The Memorandum is now open to signing by any country that so wishes and will hopefully herald a new era in the conservation of this ocean ranging sharks.