Historic advances in international shark and ray conservation

Posted on 10 November 2014

Twenty-one species of shark and ray have received increased international protection
Quito, Ecuador: Twenty-one species of shark and ray have received increased international protection, adding to recent victories for marine conservation.

The sharks and rays were listed for protection under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Member countries agreed to grant strict protection to the reef manta, nine varieties of devil ray, and five types of sawfish. States also committed to work internationally to conserve all three species of thresher shark, two types of hammerhead shark, and the silky shark.

“Manta and devil rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation, usually having just one pup every few years,” explained WWF’s Ian Campbell, who served on the delegation of Fiji. “The Appendix I listing obligates CMS parties to ban fishing for reef manta and all devil ray species, and reflects a responsible, precautionary approach in light of their inherent susceptibility to depletion.”

The move comes just two months after regulations on seven threatened species of shark and ray were introduced under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Commercial international trade in sawfish is banned under CITES, while trade in manta rays is regulated to ensure it is sustainable.

Six types of shark were added to Appendix II of CMS encouraging international cooperation towards conservation of shared species. The ray and sawfish were listed under both Appendix II and Appendix I committing countries to strict protections. The listings enhance the chances for recovery and sustainable use.

The Convention lists migratory species threatened with extinction in its Appendix I meaning member parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration, and controlling other factors that might endanger them. 

The CMS Parties also agreed a resolution encouraging improved data collection and fisheries management for shark and ray.

The CMS brings together the 120 countries through which migratory animals pass, and aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. It is the only global intergovernmental convention established exclusively for the conservation and management of migratory species.

Fact sheets on the newly listed species and what how the listings might help them can be found here.
Sawfish were listed under Appendix I obligating CMS parties to ban fishing of the species.
© Matt Garvey and Chris Gardner