To Better Protect Sharks and Rays, Countries Gather for CITES Workshop

Johannesburg meeting will help governments in southern Africa apply critical trade measures

To Better Protect Sharks and Rays, Countries Gather for CITES Workshop
Group photo
Representatives met in South Africa to learn best practices for implementation of shark and ray protections under CITES.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

More than 40 participants, including representatives from Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania, gathered in Johannesburg Aug. 6-7 for a workshop on how best to implement international trade regulations to protect 20 species of sharks and rays. The workshop focused on those listed in 2013 and 2016 on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II: oceanic whitetip sharks; porbeagle sharks; silky sharks; scalloped, smooth, and great hammerhead sharks; bigeye, common, and pelagic thresher sharks; and all manta and mobula rays. An Appendix II listing means that international trade in that species must be legal and sustainable, and not detrimental to populations in the wild.

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Getty Images
White tip
Oceanic whitetip sharks were among the first commercially traded shark species listed on CITES Appendix II. The 2013 listing also included scalloped hammerhead sharks.
iStockphoto

It is fitting that South Africa—one of the first signatories to CITES and the site of the most recent CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP17)—hosted the workshop, which provided the tools and information regional governments need to effectively regulate the international trade of CITES-listed sharks and rays.

In his opening remarks, Gcobani Popose, director of oceans and coasts for the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, said: “This workshop is imperative to share experiences from across the region and train [personnel] on how trade of these species can be conducted in a sustainable manner to better ensure [healthy] shark and ray populations for future generations.”

Co-hosted by the government of South Africa and The Pew Charitable Trusts, the workshop brought together fisheries, environment, and customs officials to build capacity for implementing the listings across southern Africa. Experts led sessions on how governments regulate international trade, how to conduct assessments known as nondetriment findings, and how to identify shark fins and ray gill plates found in trade.  Representatives discussed the challenges in implementing shark and ray CITES listings, including capacity-building needs and the importance of information sharing, and next steps to improve management and coordination domestically and regionwide.

SA Workshop
Participants in the Johannesburg CITES workshop discuss shark and ray listings. The information exchanged at regional workshops such as this one helps to advance conservation of ecologically and economically valuable species.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Jen Sawada directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global shark conservation program.