Historic Shark Decisions Survive Final Threat at CITES Plenary

Oceanic whitetip shark Photo
© Dray van Beeck

Five commercially valuable shark species, manta rays & freshwater sawfish listed 


The following statement was issued today by WCS President and CEO Cristian Samper: 

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today celebrates the decision by an historic, broad group of nations from around the world to list five new sharks, freshwater sawfish, and two manta ray species for protection by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This vote is a first, critical step in working to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of commercially valuable shark and ray species, a third of which have been evaluated as threatened or near threatened with extinction with extinction worldwide, and essential for both for conservation and for the livelihoods of local coastal communities. In working toward today's action, WCS has been pleased and fortunate to collaborate with a coalition that includes the German Elasmobranch Society, Humane Society International, Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, and the Shark Trust, through support from Oceans 5. 

This is a major first step on which the global conservation community can build to start to implement stronger sustainable management for these endangered animals -- three hammerhead shark species, the porbeagle shark, the oceanic whitetip shark, freshwater sawfish, and two manta ray species. After two decades of debate, CITES action shows a new resolve by the global community to promote sustainable shark and ray fisheries with effective international monitoring. We salute this effort and pledge our support and assistance in the implementation of these essential new protections in waters world-wide.

Bangkok, 14 March 2013. CITES plenary today accepted Committee recommendations to list five species of highly traded sharks under the CITES Appendices, along with those for the listing of both manta rays and one species of sawfish. Japan, backed by Gambia and India, unsuccessfully challenged the Committee decision to list the oceanic whitetip shark, while Grenada and China failed in an attempt to reopen debate on listing three hammerhead species. Colombia, Senegal, Mexico and others took the floor to defend Committee decisions to list sharks.

“We are thrilled with this result and the groundswell of government commitment that made it happen,” said Amie Brautigam, Marine Policy Advisor for Wildlife Conservation Society. “These hard-fought decisions to secure CITES regulations on international trade in sharks and rays are based on a solid foundation built over two decades, and surmount the long-standing opposition to listing shark species that are taken at a commercial scale.”

The oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, three species of hammerheads, and both manta rays – all classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List -- will now be added to CITES Appendix II, which prompts permits to ensure exports are sustainable and legal. The only sharks listed under CITES previous to this meeting – basking, whale, and white sharks – are not taken in the high volumes associated with the newly listed sharks. The freshwater sawfish will be transferred from Appendix II to I, where all other sawfishes are listed, thereby completing a global ban on international commercial trade in these critically endangered species.

“We’re grateful to proponent governments for recognizing the value of thriving shark and ray populations, and for championing sound proposals,” said Ania Budziak, Project AWARE’s Associate Director. “We’re proud that the divers’ voice has contributed to achieving this key milestone in shark and ray conservation.”

Proponents of the various listing proposals include the 27 Member States of the EU, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, Honduras, Mexico, and the USA. The shark and ray proposals received more than the two-thirds majority of votes necessary for adoption while the sawfish listing succeeded by consensus.

“With relief that the Committee decisions were not overturned, we now turn our focus to the essential phase of their implementation,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “We urge all Parties to recognize the urgency of the shark and ray plight and to begin this work to ensure the sustainability of international trade in newly listed species, as a matter of priority.”

Notes to Editors:
The German Elasmobranch Society, Humane Society International, Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Wildlife Conservation Society worked as a coalition to promote the shark and ray listing proposals.
For interviews, please contact Sophie Hulme, sophie@communicationsinc.co.uk, Mob: +44 7973 712869 (London) or 08-9455-1663 (Bangkok). For more information visit www.CITES4sharks.org.

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