Greater protection for devil rays, silky and thresher sharks
After a lengthy debate at the world's largest wildlife trade conference, involving passionate calls to accept and reject the proposal to list all three species on Appendix II, countries voted in favour of greater protection.
“This is a big win for all these species of sharks and rays as governments around the world will now have to act to ensure that trade is from sustainable and legal fisheries,” said Andy Cornish, WWF Shark Programme Leader. “While some controls on fishing these species exist, they are for the most part insufficient to prevent serious population declines.”
Silky sharks are threatened by overfishing for their fins, the three thresher shark species for their meat and fins, and the nine species of devil rays for their gill plates, which are used as a health tonic in southern China.
The devil rays have particularly low rates of reproduction, typically producing one pup every two-three years.
“After years of debate, this success shows that countries are increasingly convinced about the benefits of CITES regulations for commercially important sharks and rays as they result in better data collection, improved management and more sustainable international trade,” added Cornish.
But imposing regulations and restrictions is just the first step – countries must also implement them. And countries at CITES CoP17 have also made it clear that it is time to ramp up efforts to improve traceability.
Several island nations also highlighted the importance of thresher sharks for tourism.
"Countries at the CITES conference also agreed to strengthen the backbone of sustainable and legal trade in shark and ray products, traceability,” said Glenn Sant, Fisheries Trade Programme Leader, TRAFFIC. “If we want to see trade that comes from fisheries that do not negatively impact shark and ray populations, then we need to move quickly to introduce systems that achieve this.”
"Traceability is all about feeling confident when you shine the spotlight on a product that the fine print tells you it's legal and sustainable,” said Sant.
The thresher and silky shark listings will come into effect in twelve months, and the devil rays in six months, in order to allow countries to prepare for implementation.
WWF and TRAFFIC, as members of the Global Shark and Ray Initiative, have partnered with Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Project AWARE to promote the ray and shark listing proposals, with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.