Pew Applauds New Shark and Ray Trade Regulations

The most threatened marine fish families, and fastest shark, gain protections

Pew Applauds New Shark and Ray Trade Regulations

GENEVA—The Pew Charitable Trusts today commended the decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to regulate the trade in 18 species of sharks and rays whose populations are depleted.

The decision means that trade in shortfin mako—which is the world’s fastest shark—as well as longfin mako, 10 species of wedgefish, and six species of giant guitarfish can continue only if proved to be legal and sustainable.

Two-thirds of the 183 CITES Parties at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Geneva agreed to include the 18 species in Appendix II, increasing to 38 the commercially valuable shark and ray species threatened by international trade that are now regulated under the world’s premier wildlife conservation convention. The move provides a chance for these species to recover from population declines of more than 70 percent throughout their ranges, caused primarily by global trade in fins and meat. This is especially good news for the wedgefish and giant guitarfish; 15 of the 16 shark-like rays were recently reclassified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered, which is only one category away from extinct and makes them the most threatened fish families in the ocean.

According to a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as many as 1 million species, including sharks and rays, are at risk of extinction.

“Today’s decision to offer management and protection to mako sharks, giant guitarfish, and wedgefish doesn’t come a moment too soon,” said Jen Sawada, who directs the global shark conservation campaign at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “These species have been driven to near extinction, largely from the value of their fins.”

For the second consecutive meeting, the proposals to add shark and ray species to Appendix II drew historic levels of support. Sixty-seven countries signed on as co-sponsors for one or more of the proposed listings. In the lead-up to the Geneva meeting, regional workshops around the world, including in Belarus, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, helped build support for the new listings.

Implementation of the landmark 2013 shark and ray Appendix II listings, which for the first time required regulation of five commercially traded shark species and two ray species, has been heralded as widely successful. In 2016, 13 additional shark and ray species were listed, bringing the total of commercially important shark and ray species to 20. Over the past six years, more than 70 governments around the world have participated in regional and domestic workshops on how to identify and stop illegal trade in CITES-listed sharks and rays. 

“By adopting listings to cap international trade of threatened species to sustainable levels and encouraging countries to pass measures to manage these species, CITES has become a driving force in global shark conservation and management,” said Sawada. “We applaud CITES Parties for continuing to ensure the future of sharks and rays.” 

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.

More information on Pew’s global shark conservation campaign is available at http://www.pewsharks.org.

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