A landmark moment for sharks and rays as doors close on CITES CoP19

Posted on November, 25 2022

WWF calls for urgency in implementation of decisions
Panama City, 25 November, 2022: The 19th CITES Conference (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), concluded today in Panama with a number of positives for wildlife in terms of global protections against unsustainable trade. Overall the conference was a success particularly for sharks and rays as around 90 percent of all internationally traded species can now only be traded if their stocks are not endangered as a result, compared to only 20 percent before the start of the conference. 
54 species of requiem sharks, six species of hammerhead sharks and 37 species of guitarfish have been included on Appendix II of CITES. In the future, international trade in them will only be permitted if the stocks of sharks and rays are not endangered. 
Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader said, "The agreements reached at this conference on sharks and rays are a welcome lifeline for several species under immense pressure from the unregulated trade in their fins and meat. We share our planet with millions of species of plants and animals - an incredible variety of wildlife that we depend on in so many ways. WWF is optimistic that the wins secured at this conference for these aquatic species and their vital ocean habitats will provide the spark needed for future actions on other threatened species.”
The new regulations on trade in tropical songbirds is also a positive step in the right direction as is decisions on over 140 tropical tree species that have been added to Appendix II of the Convention. This means that exports can only happen when their timber is certified as legal and sustainable. However, WWF deeply regrets the delayed implementation phase set for some of these proposals. The two years imposed before these protections come into force for two groups of Latin American tree species, Cumaru and trumpet trees, opens a dangerous window of risk for the overexploitation of these species and remains an issue of concern.
“With our planet’s wildlife in crisis, WWF is concerned that the long time frame set for some of these agreements to come into force poses a serious obstacle to the progress made over the last two weeks. Wildlife populations have plunged by an average of 69% in just under 50 years and we do not have the luxury of another day to implement the agreements reached at this conference,” added Dr. Kinnaird.
Another missed opportunity in WWF’s view was the grindingly slow pace at which efforts to protect the world’s largest cats - tigers - from poaching and illegal trade are being undertaken. Little urgency has been realized during this conference  for the targeted action needed through improved enforcement and reduced demand to truly address the scale of this threat.
“On this, the lunar year of the tiger, we had hoped the issue of the world’s largest cat in trade would be given greater impetus at CITES. Although we didn’t lose ground in Panama, more urgency and priority through targeted action to improve enforcement and reduce demand is needed to truly address the scale of this threat," said Heather Sohl, WWF’s Tiger Trade Lead.
The adoption of a resolution recognising  the importance of ensuring gender mainstreaming and equality in the convention was a silver lining in a conference fraught with uncertainty for many of the world's most threatened species. The decision forms the basis for the development of various instruments and measures that will set the convention on a positive path towards conservation success, improving living conditions and governance, reducing conflict, social inequalities and eradicating gender-based violence related to legal and illegal international trade in wildlife.
For more information, please contact:
Marsden Momanyi: mmomanyi@wwfint.org  / Tel: +254 719784872
Monica Echeverria: Monica.Echeverria@wwfus.org  / Tel: +1 (202)378 33 96 (English and Spanish)
Blue shark (Prionace glauca) Pico Island, Azores, Portugal
© Naturepl.com / FrancoBanfi / WWF