eBay Trades in Endangered Shark and Ray Body Parts

eBay is openly allowing the traffic of endangered shark parts, namely sawfish rostrum and shark jaws protected under the Endangered Species Act, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

A recent review shows eBay also lists shark fin products. The demand for shark fin is causing countless shark populations to crash, sending many to extinction. The sale and trade of shark products is putting the nail of the coffin of many endangered species of sharks and rays.

The National Oceanic and Oceanographic Administration lists the narrow sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (Pristis clavata), largetooth sawfish (collectively Pristis pristis; formerly Pristis pristis, Pristis microdon, and Pristis perotteti), green sawfish (Pristis zijsron), and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata)—at risk of extinction throughout all of their ranges and should be considered an endangered species.

All species of sawfish in the family Pristidae are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2007 CITES delegates agreed to add sawfish to its Appendix 1, which “includes species threatened with extinction”. Their distribution was presumably once continuous in suitable habitat, but is now severely fragmented with many populations extirpated from large parts of their former ranges and with remaining populations seriously depleted.

Additionally mako jaws (Isurus oxyrinchus), listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and white shark jaws (Carcharodon carcharias) listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, are both protected under CITES Appendix II. Scores of jaws have been documented for sale on eBay as of May 4, 2020. 

  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

A 2004 study of eBay sales of sawfish snouts found about 20 transactions a month. Prices averaged $119 a snout but went as high as $1,242. In 2006 eBay vowed to ban sales of smalltooth sawfish. In 2021 Shark Stewards has published a report documenting sales by unscrupulous vendors without adequate documentation and submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Department.

Today sawfish rostra are selling for over $1400.00 and white shark jaws over $5000.00. It appears that eBay is allowing sellers loopholes by calling these rostra “antique” and placing the onus of CITES documentation and permitting onto the buyer, thereby violating their own policy on wildlife.  

All of the aforementioned species are listed by the IUCN as declining and some have been greatly reduced throughout their range and are at risk of extinction.

Currently eBay allows for vendors to claim or require buyers have CITES permitting without verification, thereby condoning traffic of body parts of protected wildlife. We call on eBay to strengthen and enforce its wildlife policy to block all sales of endangered and protected species including jaws, rostra and shark fin products.