Hardly any other group of animals needs protection as urgently as sharks. Today, every second shark species is endangered. One of the reasons for this is the trade in their meat and fins, to which more than 100 million sharks fall victim every year. Europe is a centre for this trade that should not be underestimated.

In the run-up to the last Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Shifting Values therefore campaigned on behalf of IFAW and in cooperation with OceanCare for a number of shark species to be included in Appendix II of CITES. Successfully: in November 2022, two shark families (hammerhead sharks and requiem sharks) were newly included in CITES. As a result, all trade now requires export and import licences from the relevant authorities.

Austria is now going a significant step further: since 19 April, a regulation issued by the Ministry of the Environment of Minister Leonore Gewessler’s (the Greens) has upgraded 74 shark species (requiem sharks, hammerhead sharks, mackerel sharks, thresher sharks, basking sharks and whale sharks) to the highest protection category. This means that the commercialisation of these species is generally prohibited in Austria. Imports, exports, re-exports and the commercial exploitation of these sharks will only be authorised under rare, defined circumstances.

The EU’s CITES Regulation allows EU Member States to impose stricter trade restrictions on species listed in the CITES Appendices. Austria has now done this for sharks, setting an example that other countries can and should follow. We humans need intact marine ecosystems. Intact marine ecosystems need sharks. The sharks need people that protect them.