Unprecedented Conservation Win for Sharks and Manta Rays at CITES

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Unprecedented Conservation Win for Sharks and Manta Rays at CITES

Five species of sharks and two species of manta rays will now be subject to international trade regulation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, a move that could save these threatened species from total collapse. 

The required two-thirds of the 177 CITES member governments voted to protect these animals—the oceanic whitetip and porbeagle sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and the two species of manta rays—marking an increase in the number of sharks protected by CITES from three to eight species. 

“This is a major win for some of the world's most threatened shark species, with action now required to control the international trade in their fins,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international environment policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “This victory indicates that the global community will collaborate to address the plight of some of the most highly vulnerable sharks and manta ray species.” 

Lieberman added that the gridlock created by those who oppose such controls has been broken. Sharks are primarily traded to Asia for use in shark fin soup. Manta rays are caught and killed for their gill rakers—the part used to filter their food from the water—to make a purported Asian health tonic.

Today was the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES.Susan Lieberman, director, international environment policy

“The tide is now turning for shark conservation—with governments listening to the science and acting in the interest of species conservation and sustainability,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of Pew's global shark conservation campaign. “With these new protections, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem.” 

Pew added that this commitment by the global community to shark conservation needs to be fully implemented and enforced, and it should be coupled with national and regional efforts to ensure a sustainable future for these and other top oceanic predators, all of which are critical for the health of the wider marine ecosystem. 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 143 shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction, but few management measures exist to protect them.


Editors Note

To pass a proposal at CITES, there needs to be a 2/3 majority of those voting to vote ‘yes'; abstentions do not count. 

Votes from Committee I on Monday 11th March:

  • Oceanic whitetip: The vote was 92 For (68.6%), 42 Against, 8 Abstentions (and was taken by secret ballot).
  • Hammerheads: The vote was 91 For (70%), 39 Against, 8 Abstentions (and was taken by secret ballot).
  • Porbeagle sharks: The vote was 93 For (70.45%), 39 Against, 8 Abstentions (and was taken by secret ballot).
  • Manta rays: The vote was 96 For (80.7%), 23 Against, 7 Abstentions (and was taken by secret ballot).
       

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