CITES protection of sharks and manta rays

Yesterday, the 14th September 2014, marked a turning point for the protection of sharks and manta rays in the wild, with tighter regulations on the international trade of five species of commercially valuable sharks and all manta ray species, being introduced by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

The inclusion in CITES Appendix II of Oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus), Scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), Great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), Smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena), Porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus) and all manta rays (Manta spp.), means that the international trade, including trade in their meat, gills and fins, will need to be accompanied by permits and certificates confirming they have been legally and sustainably harvested.

These species are known to be traded in high volumes and are commonly consumed in many parts of the world. The increased protection afforded by their inclusion on Appendix II could, therefore, be crucial to their future survival. Exports of these species will require authorisation from the designated national authorities, while countries importing these species will need to ensure that all shipments are accompanied by the correct permits and certification. Although Denmark, Canada, Guyana, Japan, Iceland and Yemen have all entered reservations on some or all of these species (meaning they will not be bound by CITES regulations regarding trade in these species), they will be required to show permits and certificates if trading with countries that are listed as CITES Parties.

Mr John E. Scanlon, the CITES Secretary-General said, “The practical implementation of these listings will involve issues such as determining sustainable export levels, verifying legality, and identifying the fins, gills and meat that are in trade. This may seem challenging, but by working together we can do it and we will do it.” It is believed that this global effort will prevent over-harvesting of these species for international trade.

Photo credit Jenny Huang

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