CITES takes decisive action to halt decline of sharks, manta rays

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today announced new trade protections for sharks and rays — a decision informed by the work of Project Seahorse scientists.   

At the 16th CITES conference of parties, a team of international researchers led by Project Seahorse’s Dr. Amanda Vincent released a paper that analyzes CITES’s mandate over marine species following landmark 2002 protections for seahorses. 

The paper was submitted by the U.S. delegation and rigorously responded to the worries that CITES member countries raise about regulating trade in marine fishes. It informed the debate on whether exports of a number of shark and ray species should be regulated. 

(Downloads: Full paper | executive summary | in Spanish | in French)

In the end, five new shark species, including the oceanic white tip, scalloped, great, and smooth hammerhead, and the porbeagle shark were protected along with manta rays. 

CITES regulates exports of very few marine fishes, by placing them on a list called Appendix II.  This is where UBC’s Project Seahorse successfully effected the listing of seahorses in 2002 — the first such listing for marine fishes in 26 years. Two species of sharks soon followed.  In the subsequent ten years, however, only two more species have been listed, along with all the sawfishes.

CITES is the only international organization with the ability to enforce export controls. A CITES Appendix listing means that all 178 member countries of CITES must guarantee that any exports are sustainable and are caught legally.

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