Several governments have agreed in principle to a new United Nations global agreement to protect sharks, which have long been neglected by conservationists and over-exploited by the modern fishing industry.
Three of the largest and most iconic shark species, migratory whale, great white and basking sharks, have been singled out for protection in the agreement reached after a three-day meeting, also attended by NGO's and fishery bodies in the Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles.
The meeting was organized by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), an intergovernmental treaty concluded under the aegis of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that seeks to conserve wildlife and habitats on a global scale.
Although it had been feared that the interests of individual fisheries would thwart an agreement from being reached, the meeting's chairman, Rolph Payet, announced that Governments had resolved their differences.
The agreement, to be finalized next year, will promote cooperation among governments, fisheries bodies, scientists and NGOs, as well as further efforts to conserve sharks, including putting control on shark finning.
It also includes encouraging the creation of a global shark database and identifying and protecting critical shark habitats and migration routes.
Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of UNEP/CMS, said that this latest agreement brings the total number of new agreements having secured international approval to eight this year.
Apart from sharks, other endangered migratory animals covered include ruddy-headed geese, birds of prey, sea cows, small whales, Mediterranean monk seals, grassland birds and gorillas.