October 4, 2016
Shark conservation groups around the world are applauding the decision by the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to add protection to silky sharks, thresher sharks and devil rays by including them in Appendix II.
“This is an important step forwards to protect silky sharks, thresher sharks and Mobula rays,” said David McGuire, Director of Shark Stewards, a San Francisco based shark conservation group. “The large demand and high value of shark fins, meat and ray gill plates from these species is causing these species to disappear where they were once abundant. This designation provides increased trade and market data where it is largely absent, and can reduce international trade where it is most needed.”
The International Union for Concerned Scientists report that Silky Shark ranks among the three most important sharks in the global shark fin trade and their population has dramatically declined globally. Thresher sharks are severely overfished and the Devil and Eagle rays are targeted for their gills to supply the burgeoning Traditional Chinese Medicine Trade.
Shark fins and ray gills are the world’s most profitable fish commodities. This trade is largely unregulated with few monitoring and reporting systems in place to track them and poor catch records. A lack of reliable trade data and population statistics leads to a lack of protection locally and internationally.
Scientists estimate that 100 million sharks and rays are killed each year from fishing activities and millions more are killed through illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries.. Studies indicate that some shark species may have declined by as much as 90 per cent in the past decade.
Silky sharks, thresher sharks and large rays are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young. Each of these species is internationally traded, has declining wild populations, has limited distribution, and is suffering from habitat loss, poor management and high global demand for their parts and products.
The CITES Appendix II designation includes species which may become threatened and allows trade only if it is not detrimental to their survival.
The decision was made October 3rd at the17th Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg. For silky sharks, it was agreed by 111 votes in support, 30 votes against and five abstentions. For thresher sharks, it was agreed by 108 votes in support, 29 votes against and 5 abstentions. For devil rays, it was agreed by 110 votes in support, 20 votes against and 3 abstentions.
Shark Stewards mission is to save sharks from overfishing and the shark fin trade and by protecting critical marine habitat. Shark Stewards has worked in the USA to reduce overfishing and the shark fin trade. With partners in the Sabah Shark Protection Association, the group worked to urge protection in Malaysia and add these species to CITES Appendix II, especially the Mobula Rays which have suffered large losses to the gill raker trade.