Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans


Why is a CITES listing so important?

So far, there are only a few shark species on CITES Appendix II:  the white shark Carcharodon carcharias, whale shark Rhincodon typus and basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, and all species of sawfishes (family Pristidae) in Appendix I, apart from Pristis microdon, included in Appendix II.

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) provides rules for international trade in endangered animal and plant species to prevent that species become endangered or even extinct as a result of the international trade. For the import and export of protected species licenses are required, and also for internal trade in certain species.


CITES is the only treaty that regulates international trade in wildlife. The treaty was signed in Washington in 1975 and, to date, 177 countries have signed on to it.





Sonja Fordham of Sharks Advocates International has participated in every CITES Convention of the Parties since 1994, when the first landmark international Resolution on sharks was adopted. She states:

“The distinctive fins of the oceanic whitetip shark are exported from around the world to Asia for use in traditional Chinese “shark fin soup.” Colombia and the U.S. are leading the effort to secure CITES protections for this species, which has suffered steep declines in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
Porbeagle sharks are prized for their meat, particularly in Europe, as well as their fins. The porbeagle proposal comes from the European Union (EU) and is cosponsored by Brazil, Comoros, and Egypt. The EU has closed its fisheries for porbeagle, but the species is still targeted in Canada and taken incidentally in some North Atlantic and Southern hemisphere pelagic fisheries.

Due largely to the exceptionally high value of their fins, hammerheads are among the most threatened of the wide-ranging sharks. The three largest species — scalloped, great, and smooth hammerheads — have been proposed for CITES listing by Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Croatia, and the European Union.

Manta rays are increasingly sought for their gill rakers (the structures that support their gills), which are used in Chinese medicine. Mantas are among the least productive of the rays, typically giving birth to only one pup every 2-3 years. Ecuador and Brazil have co-sponsored the proposal to add the manta genus to CITES Appendix II.”


Dead hammerheads at the Dubai Fish Market / Picture by Sonja Fordham

Under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, both manta rays, and the smooth hammerhead are classified as globally Vulnerable. Scalloped and great hammerheads are categorized as Endangered while the freshwater sawfish (and all other sawfishes) are Critically Endangered.

Experts at  the IUCN, TRAFFIC, and the CITES Secretariat have determined that these species meet the criteria for proposed CITES listings. A special panel convened by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reached the same conclusions about most of these populations.





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