Campaign to List Sharks Under CITES

CITES CoP19 will be hosted in Panama November 2022

Shark Stewards will be were there with our colleagues and partners, working in support of a new proposal to list blue sharks, and support enforcement and strengthening of existing listings.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES)

Blue sharks were up for inclusion at CoP 18 but were blocked by major shark-fishing nations Spain and the USA and were not advanced for listing under Appendix II in 2018.

However, three elasmobranch proposals (for mako sharks, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes) were adopted at CITES CoP18, for a successful listing of 18 new shark and ray species on Appendix II.

This means that countries fishing and selling sharks and shark parts must track exports and high-seas take, as well as demonstrate that internationally traded products from these species are legally sourced from sustainably managed fisheries.

While CITES listing is a positive step, enforcement and better fisheries management is urgently needed to reduce take by enforcing catch limits and tracking meat and fins to the fishery.

While CITES does not directly reduce fishing of sharks and rays, it should influence the need for proper fisheries management including banning illegal finning and fins from unsustainable aor unmanaged fisheries. A number of permits are required when landing CITES listed species caught in high-seas waters or traded across international borders, to show where they’ve come from and that they’re from sustainable populations.

If properly implemented, this helps protect pelagic species where landings are mostly from high-seas waters (e.g. blue sharks, oceanic whitetip, shortfin mako). Otherwise, without high-seas catch limits it is challenging to prove sustainable fishing. However, for CITES listed sharks there are no trade restrictions on domestic landings or internal trade from sharks and shark fins within a nation’s waters (Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ).This means effective catch limits and no retention is necessary within EEZ waters to ensure protection of endangered and threatened species within domestic fisheries.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., United States of America, on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force. The original of the Convention was deposited with the Depositary Government in the English, French and Spanish languages, each version being equally authentic. The Convention is also available in Chinese and Russian.

More about CITES Cop19.

The need for CITES

Widespread information about the endangered status of many prominent species, such as the tiger and elephants, might make the need for such a convention seem obvious. But at the time when the ideas for CITES were first formed, in the 1960s, international discussion of the regulation of wildlife trade for conservation purposes was something relatively new. With hindsight, the need for CITES is clear. Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 37,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.