Six things to know about sharks, rays and CITES

Posted on September, 07 2016

More species need protection at world's biggest wildlife trade conference
Representatives of almost every country will be gathering in South Africa in September for the world's most important wildlife trade conference - the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

It is the biggest CITES CoP ever with a record breaking number of issues up for debate, including greater protection for some species of sharks and rays.

1. The whale shark and basking shark were the first sharks to be protected under CITES Appendix I or II. After proposals to list the species were rejected during initial discussions at CoP12 in 2002, the debate was reopened in the final plenary, and both were accepted onto Appendix II. Coincidentally, these are also the two largest sharks in the world.

2. There are currently 17 species of shark and ray listed on CITES.
WWF and our partners are working to raise this by another 13 species by the end of CoP17. Hopefully, the Parties will vote to list 9 species of devil ray, 3 species of thresher shark, and the silky shark on Appendix II since overfishing is a direct threat to their survival.
3. Did you know? There are currently 1,150 species of sharks, rays and chimeras.
And around one new species is discovered every month! Some of the new species are found in remote areas rarely surveyed, while others are cryptic species that look very similar to species already known.

4. Vast majority of countries with seas where devil rays, threshers and silky shark occur are CITES members. One of the few exceptions is North Korea.

5. Silky shark fins are the second most common type sold in the Hong Kong shark fin trade.
Around 50% of the global trade in shark fin passes though Hong Kong. Studies of the city's shark fin trade provide great insights into the overall trade. The most common type of fin - blue shark fins.

6. Global catches of sharks and rays peaked in 2003.
The number has declined by around 20% since the peak over a decade ago. But it is not cause for celebration. The declines are more the result of there being fewer animals left in the sea, than improved fisheries management.
Spinetail Devil Ray, Maldives. Fiji has proposed that all devil ray species are protected under CITES
© Guy Stevens / Manta Trust
Thresher shark in the Philippines
© Andy Cornish / WWF