Friday, 5 October 2012

Governments Set to Tackle International Shark Trade

Pew Environment Group

Seven species of vulnerable sharks and manta rays have now been submitted by 35 countries for consideration for protection next year under an international treaty concerned with regulating wildlife trade. 

Governments met the deadline today and formally submitted their proposals for the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March 2013. The recommendations include porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two types of manta rays. For nearly 40 years, CITES has shielded thousands of plants and animals from overexploitation through international trade, and the treaty is widely considered one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements.

"We congratulate the governments of Brazil, Comoros, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, the member States of the European Union, and Honduras for their leadership and commitment to shark conservation, and urge the global community to join their call to finally provide critical international trade protection for these vulnerable shark species," said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group.

The 176 members of CITES will analyze these proposals before a final vote in Bangkok in March 2013.
"Countries cannot continue to watch as these sharks and rays are driven to the brink of extinction; measures need to be put in place now to regulate international trade in these species," said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. "This is not just about sharks; it's about keeping the world's oceans healthy. CITES has the chance in Bangkok to help save these species." 

  • The CITES Secretariat requires that countries postmark letters indicating their submission of a proposal for a CITES listing by Oct. 4. It could take days, and up to a week, before the complete list of countries is final, indicating that there could be additional proposals and cosponsors yet to come.
  • Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna lewini):  These sharks are found along coastlines in warm, temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Proposed for a CITES Appendix II listing by Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, the European Union, and Honduras, and this would also protect the smooth and great hammerhead species because fins of the three species are indistinguishable. Hammerhead sharks are largely traded for their valuable fins. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as endangered globally.
  • Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus): A coastal shark (and smaller cousin of the great white shark) that ranges into international waters, the porbeagle is found in cold-temperate waters worldwide. Proposed for an Appendix II listing by Brazil, Comoros, Croatia, Egypt, and the 27 member States of the European Union, the porbeagle is largely traded for its meat and fins. Populations of this shark have been severely depleted around the globe, and the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species classifies them as Vulnerable globally and Critically Endangered in part of its range.
  • Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus): The oceanic whitetip is an open-ocean species with a distinctive white tip on its dorsal fin. Proposed for an Appendix II listing by Brazil and Colombia, it is largely traded for its valuable fins. The oceanic whitetip is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered in the northwest and central Atlantic Ocean and Vulnerable globally.
  • Manta Ray: There are two species of manta rays, the oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris), which is found around the world in tropical and subtropical waters, and the reef manta (M. alfredi), which is found globally in tropical and temperate waters. Proposed for an Appendix II listing by Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia, it is largely traded for its gill plates, which are reportedly used in Asian medicinal products. Manta rays are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable globally.
  • CITES Appendix II listings can serve a critical function in conserving global shark populations by helping to ensure that their international trade is sustainable and legal. CITES provides unique benefits that supplement and bolster the limited conservation and management measures adopted by some regional fisheries management organizations, as well as regulations established by individual countries.
  • CITES has historically focused on land-based species, but in recent years the number of marine species proposed for protection has increased. Shark species currently protected include the whale shark, basking shark, great white shark, and sawfish.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands, and promote clean energy. For more information, visit

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