Aug. 25, 2019, Geneva – The following statement was released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society on the vital victory for shark and ray conservation at the world wildlife conference being held by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):

The votes, all taken by secret ballot, were as followed: (2/3 needed for approval)

Proposal 42: for 2 mako shark species to be placed on Appendix II (longfin and shortfin)

ADOPTED – Yes 102; No 40; Abstain 5

Proposal 43: for 6 giant guitarfish species to be placed on Appendix II

ADOPTED – Yes 109; No 30; Abstain 4

Proposal 44: 10 wedgefish species to be placed on Appendix II

ADOPTED – Yes 112;  No 30; Abstain 4

The big result: It was agreed to place 18 additional shark and ray species on Appendix II of CITES, after a vote in committee; the listings will be formally adopted in the final plenary section of the meeting if countries maintain their positions over the next three days. This means that international trade in these species will be regulated, and countries will be incentivized to manage the fisheries for these species to ensure they are sustainable.

Said Luke Warwick, associate director for sharks and rays at the Wildlife Conservation Society:

“Sharks are vulnerable wildlife too, and again CITES member governments have stepped up, and recognized that via inclusion in CITES Appendix II. Mako, giant guitarfish and wedgefish all received needed trade protections.

“With these Appendix II proposals adopted, there is now hope for these 18 depleted species of sharks and rays, and WCS will work with countries around the world to ensure these listings result in the protections and fisheries management measures these species desperately need.

An historic number of countries today put teeth into efforts to prevent the extinction of 18 species of sharks and rays: 2 mako shark species; 6 guitarfish species, and 10 wesdgefish species. 

“Fisheries for sharks are crucial for many local communities around the world, but for species as vulnerable as these sharks and rays, which play key roles in healthy marine ecosystems, the extra safeguards of CITES listings are an essential first step toward proper management.  

“The CITES Party governments clearly sought to strengthen efforts to prevent the extinction of mako, guitarfish and wedgefish sharks and rays. Sharks and rays are among the most threatened species on our planet and momentum is clearly building to ensure that these species – which have been around for 400 million years – continue to be around for future generations.

“The 18 species protected today include the flattened relatives of sharks called wedgefish and giant guitarfish, that together were recently found to be the most threatened families of marine fish found on the planet, and whose fins are the most expensive in international markets, where they are prized for use in shark fin soup.

“Also receiving protection today were the world’s fastest sharks, the shortfin and longfin mako. These two species, the “cheetahs of the ocean”, play key roles as top predators in the world’s high seas, and are highly valued for their meat, along with their fins, and are caught in huge numbers globally in commercial and recreational fisheries. This CITES listing will help ensure that the fisheries bodies that have ignored their management for decades prioritize it in the years to come. 

“These three shark proposals at CITES CoP18 received the highest level of co-sponsorship for any proposal in the more than 40-year history of the CITES Convention. The co-sponsors included both developed and developing countries, from across the globe, further demonstrating that a wide range of member governments realize the need for CITES to regulate the global trade in shark fins, along with other products such as meat, to help prevent unsustainable and illegal trade from driving these ecologically critical predators toward extinction."

Shark Bites (Facts)

(1)   Sharks and rays are one of the most endangered groups of animals on the planet. 

(2)   There are more than 1,000 species of sharks and rays living today. 

(3)   Approximately 100 species of sharks and rays are regularly traded internationally for their fins and meat. 

(4)   Since 2013, CITES began to list regularly commercially traded species of sharks and rays under the convention’s appendices, mainly under CITES Appendix II, which is about sustainable trade and utilization. 

(5)   There are 18 species of sharks and rays that have been successfully listed at CITES CoP18 (a record number of shark and ray listings for a CITES meeting), with a record number of governments (more than 50) supporting the actions. 

(6)   Sixteen of the 18 species now listed on Appendix II CITES CoP18 are giant guitarfish (6 species) and wedgefish (10 species), strange flattened relatives of true sharks that are almost all listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

(7)   Giant guitarfish populations are suspected to have declined up to 50% in some regions, but most are suffering population loss ranging from 80% to localized extinctions. 

(8)   The shortfin and longfin mako sharks—the fastest species of sharks and among the most iconic shark species—are both now listed under CITES (Appendix II). 

(9)   It is estimated that mako shark populations have declined of 60-96% worldwide. 

(10) Listing mako sharks, guitarfish and wedgefish under CITES will help regulate the global trade in shark fins, along with other products such as meat, to help prevent unsustainable and illegal trade from driving these ecologically critical predators toward extinction. 

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