Despite progress in conservation efforts in recent years, many shark populations still face significant threats and continue to decline. Senegal and Bangladesh are among the many countries trying to address those threats by adopting policies to protect and sustainably manage vulnerable sharks and rays, especially those listed by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The regions of West Africa and South Asia have led in shark conservation by co-sponsoring and advocating for new shark and ray listings at the most recent CITES Conference of the Parties last August, where 18 species of sharks and rays were included in Appendix II. Governments are responsible for making sure that international trade in Appendix II species is sustainable, legal and not detrimental to populations in the wild.
For the first time since 1986, Senegal is amending its Hunting and Wildlife Protection Code, which, when approved by Parliament, will create a legal framework under which agencies will be able to protect or manage all species listed under CITES and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), including sharks and rays. The amendment will fully protect all species listed on Appendix I and require management measures determined by the permit for each Appendix II-listed species. Most significant, all species listed in the future in CITES and CMS will automatically be added to their respective schedules within the code, thus further amendments won’t be needed to include additional species. The Government of Senegal held six workshops with the support of Humane Society International and The Pew Charitable Trusts to help ensure it consulted relevant departments and stakeholders within the country in amending its law. As a result, there is broad support for the updated code.
Similarly, Bangladesh is updating its Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012, to protect CITES-listed sharks and rays. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Bangladesh Program, with support from Blue Resources Trust and Pew, is raising awareness on shark and ray conservation in Bangladesh and why it’s important that the Government is taking action to save threatened species.
As part of the Government’s World Wildlife Day celebration on 3 March, WCS Bangladesh launched an interactive exhibition called “Ocean Guardians: Protecting Threatened Sharks and Rays in Bangladesh.” The exhibition was hosted by the Forest Department and jointly inaugurated by the minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It will travel to different regions of the country to educate Government officials and the general public on why sharks and rays are in trouble and what is being done to protect them. In addition, a radio program series produced by WCS is airing throughout the coastal region of the country. The radio programs showcase the unique features of whale sharks, hammerhead and thresher sharks, manta rays and sawfish and how these threatened species can be saved from extinction.
Senegal and Bangladesh, along with other countries in West Africa and South Asia, are firmly committed to successfully implementing all CITES shark and ray listings and maintaining the momentum to properly manage these imperiled species worldwide. Their ongoing leadership will have a much needed positive impact on shark and ray species, whose populations are continuing to decline.
Workshops and outreach efforts were funded by the Shark Conservation Fund.
KerriLynn Miller is an officer with Pew’s global shark conservation campaign.