Setting our Sights on CITES

International trade in wild plants and animals is estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and, in too many cases, it threatens species survival. We’re working to use the power of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help protect threatened, commercially valuable shark and ray species - sought for fins, meat, oil, teeth cartilage, wings and gill plates – from the devastating effects of unregulated, international trade.

Setting our Sights on CITES


It’s the largest, most effective wildlife conservation agreement in existence. With 182 Parties – signatories to the agreement - CITES provides an international framework for monitoring and controlling trade between countries in species at risk and penalizing violations.

CITES-listed species are subject to strict trade controls and verifications. For highly endangered species, commercial international trade can essentially be shut down.

To date, more than 30,000 species of plants and animals are listed under CITES and the agreement has been a major factor in the recovery of the Nile Crocodile, the South African white rhino and some populations African Elephants, for example.

Shark Protection and CITES

While CITES has helped to save a myriad of terrestrial species, the effort to list sharks and marine fish is still a relatively new ground and has resulted in difficult battles. Sharks have been on CITES agenda since 1994 with CITES trade controls going into effect for basking and whale sharks in 2002, great white sharks in 2004, and CITES trade ban for 6 out of the 7 sawfishes in 2007.

In 2010 - when eight worthy and heavily fished shark species were denied listing - more than 130,000 of us voiced our disappointment to CITES leaders. Nearly 3 years of committed advocacy work later, we were thrilled that our collective voice was heard when five species of highly traded sharks, both manta rays and one species of sawfish were listed under CITES at the conclusion of the 16th Meeting of Parties (CoP16) held in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand with the new controls coming into effect 18 months later. Although the tide is turning for sharks and rays, vigorous opposition to the listing of commercially valuable fish under CITES remains.

Next on Our Agenda - CITES CoP17, September 2016

The 17th meeting of Parties (CITES CoP17) – to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016 - will be the largest global gathering of people focused on international wildlife trade, attracting CITES Parties, intergovernmental and international and national organizations, the private sector, local and indigenous groups, and experts from multiple disciplines. The meeting will review progress since 2013, the future direction of the Convention, and proposals to include new species – including several species of sharks and devil rays - under CITES regulatory controls.

Project AWARE, together with partner organizations and shark advocates around the world, is committed to ensuring progress for sharks and rays this September. Stay tuned for calls to action and get ready to put your fins on for shark conservation with a Finathon® in 2016!