Several shark species and the manta ray won international trade protection Monday in a move hailed by conservationists as a breakthrough in efforts to save them from being wiped out by overfishing.
The deal at a major wildlife conference in Bangkok marked a rare victory in the fight by environmentalists to reverse a slump in populations of sharks -- the world's oldest predator -- due to rampant demand for its fins.
Rather than a complete ban, the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to restrict cross-border trade in the oceanic whitetip, the porbeagle, three types of hammerheads and the manta ray.
The agreement, which must still be formally approved by the CITES plenary session, delighted conservationists who warn that Asia's voracious appetite for shark fins is causing their population to plunge.
"The tide is now turning for shark conservation," said Elizabeth Wilson of Pew's Global Shark Conservation Campaign.
"With these new protections, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem."