CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, what a mouthful!), is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. 2016 has seen the conclusion of the 17th CITES convention. This year was especially important for the future of some of the oceans most endangered elasmobranchs.
There are approximately 900-1150 species of sharks, skates, and rays globally but few have solid protection or management plans. Shark and ray numbers are in decline worldwide due to the targeted fisheries for their fins and gill rakers; used in soups and Chinese medicines.
Sharks were first included in Appendix II of CITES in February 2003. Species included in Appendix II are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but trade in them is controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. As of June 2013, eight species of sharks and all manta rays (which belong to the same subclass Elasmobranchii) were included in Appendix II.
On October 4th 2016 CITES Parties officially listed 9 species of devil rays (some of the worlds most endangered rays), 3 species of thresher sharks, and the silky shark under CITES Appendix II. This is all thanks to the hard work of hundreds of scientists and citizen scientists as well as proposals led by Fiji, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives!
We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has worked tirelessly in making the oceans a safer place for these brilliant animals!
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