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The second meeting on International Cooperation on Migratory Sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species (SHARKS II) convened from 6-8 December 2008 at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy. The goal of the meeting was to reach agreement on the final form of the instrument to guide the management of migratory sharks, based on two drafts of a legally binding instrument (LBI) and a non-legally binding instrument (NLBI) prepared by the Convention on Migratory Species and Wild Animals (CMS) Secretariat, in consultation with an Intersessional Steering Group on Migratory Sharks (ISGMS). SHARKS II was also expected to note the progress made by the CMS Secretariat and ISGMS in implementing earlier recommendations calling for the development of a migratory shark agreement, consider whether a dedicated plan of action for the instrument was necessary, and recommend further actions for the finalization of the instrument.

SHARKS II agreed on an NLBI in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for migratory shark conservation and adopted a “Statement on the Outcome of the Meeting.” SHARKS II revised the proposed draft MoU and informally considered draft elements for the plan of action that will be developed further by an Inter-Sessional Drafting Group by July 2009, with the expectation that both documents would be finalized and adopted at SHARKS III to be held in the Philippines. Among the meeting’s most contentious issues was whether to limit the MoU’s scope to the Basking, Great White and Whale Sharks that initially triggered interest in the instrument in 2005 or to include the Spiny Dogfish, Porbeagle and Shortfin and Longfin Mako Sharks that were listed on the CMS appendices at its ninth Conference of the Parties the previous week.

Participants gave mixed reviews of SHARKS II achievements. While some expressed disappointment at the decision to develop yet another NLBI, others were frustrated by the fact that SHARKS II came close to adopting an MoU and then stumbled over “diversionary issues.” Optimists highlighted that the development of a global agreement is “new territory for CMS” and drew parallels with other regional CMS MoUs that took equally long to develop, cautioning that haste may lead to a poor quality MoU. And while the offer by the Philippines to host SHARKS III revived participants’ flagging spirits during the meeting’s final hour, there was near consensus that the success or failure of the process that began in 2005 at CMS COP 8 rests heavily on the quality of the yet-to-be developed action plan. More information