Historic shark decision takes effect
In a conservation milestone welcomed by WWF, five shark and two manta ray species will be under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) from 14 September. Their commercial trade will be regulated to ensure they are legally sourced and that trade doesn’t threaten the species’ survival.
“Sharks are apex predators and play an important role in maintaining a healthy ocean. Regulating trade is key to saving these important species and ensuring the ocean contributes to food security by staying productive,” said Andy Cornish, Leader of Sharks: Restoring the Balance, a joint initiative of WWF and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
The species in question include oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three types of hammerhead shark, as well as two manta ray species. Shark populations are decreasing at a rapid rate across the globe with losses of more than 90 per cent of some species in certain locations.
Sharks are sought for fins, meat, leather, liver oil and cartilage. However, it is the demand for shark fins in Asia that is the greatest driver of overfishing and population declines. Oceanic whitetip and hammerhead fins are high value, the porbeagle is mainly caught for the international trade of its meat, and the gill plates of manta rays are highly valued as a health tonic in southern China.
The entry into force of these new listings comes more than a year after nations voted to have the species added to Appendix II of CITES. “It was a long road to the necessary two-thirds majority vote, with some of the species narrowly missing it at previous CITES meetings,” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF International’s wildlife trade specialist. “The 18-month delay before the entry into force of the listings was necessary to allow countries to prepare for implementing them properly."
“The listing was a victory for science over politics,” said Cornish. “But now the real work starts. First we want to see the CITES regulations enforced, and then we want to see legal fisheries become truly sustainable, well-managed fisheries. The stocks of some of these species may already be too low to allow any fishing. In such cases, a recovery period will be required to pull these sharks and rays back from the brink.”
A 2014 report led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group found that almost a quarter of all sharks, rays are threatened with extinction.
WWF has led campaigns in several Asian countries to persuade companies and consumers to stop buying, selling or consuming shark fin. Cornish says that even with the CITES listings entering into force, there are no certified sustainable shark fin yet on the market and until such time, these products should be avoided.
“International cooperation to implement the new CITES measures will be essential. CITES is very important as part of the solution to accelerate improvements in management for some important species across most fishing nations, but reducing consumption of unsustainably harvested shark fin and meat is just as important as ever,” said Cornish.
WWF and TRAFFIC created Sharks: Restoring the Balance, a joint global initiative to promote responsible shark fishing, improve the regulation of international trade in shark products and reduce consumer demand for unsustainably sourced shark and ray products.
For more information on the species in question and the new provisions that will apply see: http://www.cites.org/prog/shark