Last November in Panama City, Panama, history was made for shark conservation when over 180 governments from around the globe voted to protect over 90 species of sharks from the global shark fin trade. All shark species in the Requiem family (Carcharhinidae) sharks (including reef sharks, river sharks and blue sharks) and hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae) as well as several species of ray and guitarfishes (Rhinobatidae) were protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Shark Stewards attended the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama, November 14-25, 2022 to help sway delegate’s votes in favor of protecting these sharks from the global wildlife trade.
The requiem and hammerhead shark families include some of the most endangered species of sharks. Important apex predators, hammerheads and requiem sharks are among the highest traded fins in the Asian market. New research shows that 37% of all sharks are threatened with extinction, the highest percentage among vertebrate groups in the ocean. Pelagic (open ocean) sharks have declined over 70 percent in the last 50 years. Additionally, reef shark populations were found to be functionally extinct on 20% of coral reefs surveyed around the globe.of all species in the shark fin trade are endangered.
Upon arriving in Panama, the outcome of the conference was unknown, however, Shark Stewards with other supporters of sharks and shark conservation groups arrived in numbers. When both requiem and hammerhead sharks passed their proposals for listing under CITES Appendix II along with the Rays and Guitarfish some of the most endangered marine species were given a chance to survive. Sharks, such as river sharks, the grey reef shark and the sharptooth lemon shark as well as 4 species of freshwater brazilian guitarfish and scores of others were all included in the listing. Additionally, the inclusion of blue sharks, whose inclusion was most uncertain due to its fishing value, was an extremely beneficial approval due to the rapid decline of this species. An estimated 20 million blue sharks are killed for their fins and are in several studies the most commonly found fin in the asian market. The fact that a strong majority vote was given by the majority of delegates, provides not only hope for international protection of sharks and rays but the clear message to policymakers that marine health is crucial to address for a sustainable future.
For more information on some of the endangered sharks now protected under CITES, see our shark info sheets here. (link sheets to website here)
By focusing efforts on saving sharks and conserving marine habitats, we as a global community can ensure not only a safer and healthier future for the oceans but also for humankind, as we are so very dependent on the ocean. Now that a large majority of shark and ray species have been protected, it is up to national governments to continue to monitor, manage and enforce conservation laws to help restore shark populations, and provide a sustainable future for us all.
Author Vivian Guido is a second year master’s student of environmental studies from York University in Toronto, Canada. As a formal intern with Shark Stewards she researched and arranged the shark science sheets. Shark Stewards used to advance CITES listing in Panama at Cop19 in November 2022, as well as research and co author a report on the socioeconomics of the global shark diving tourism industry.