Historic day for shark preservation
Conservationists have hailed a "historic" day for sharks after governments agreed to boost protection for them under a global trade treaty.
Five species of sharks and two manta rays were given protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
Governments voted earlier in the week in favour of the move to list the sharks and rays as "appendix II" species under the Cites treaty, which will mean the international trade in them is strictly regulated to ensure it is sustainable.
There were concerns that the final plenary session of the Cites meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, could reverse the decision, but the move has now been confirmed.
Conservationists say protection is necessary to reverse declining numbers of sharks and rays, which are being overfished for food and medicine in Asia.
Almost 100 million sharks are caught every year, targeted largely for their fins for use in shark fin soup, which is a delicacy in Asia, wildlife experts say but as species which are slow-growing and slow to reproduce, they are vulnerable to overfishing.
Manta rays have also seen numbers decline dramatically in some areas in the face of a growing trade in their gill plates, which are sold in China as medicine claimed to treat a range of health complaints from asthma to chickenpox and even cancer.
Some countries have been reluctant to include marine species, which can generate large revenues, in the treaty that regulates or bans international trade in wildlife. The shark fin business is worth an estimated £320 million a year.
Carlos Drews, head of WWF's Cites delegation, described the moment as "historic", and said WWF wanted to see similar action in the future to protect other commercially-exploited and threatened marine species.
Glenn Sant, wildlife monitoring network Traffic's marine programme leader, said: "This is an historic day for marine conservation. Shark populations are in free fall, but have been thrown a lifeline today - Cites has finally listened to the scientists."