Setting our Sights on CITES

We did it! Five species of highly traded sharks, both manta rays and one species of sawfish were listed under CITES at the conclusion of CoP16 held in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. Read more about these historic decisions for some of the world’s most vulnerable sharks and rays.

Setting our Sights on CITES
New CITES trade controls come into effect on 14 September 2014.

International trade in wild plants and animals is estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and in too many cases, threatens species survival. For sharks – which are sought for fins, meat, oil, teeth and cartilage – regulation is sorely lacking for almost all trade.

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 sharks. It's high time that threatened and highly traded sharks get the protection that many terrestrial animals have received from CITES.

Your diver voice can help achieve the support needed for CITES success. Together, we’re reaching out and demonstrating solid arguments for change with unconvinced CITES delegates - including diving-based economic benefits of living sharks and eco-tourism. Extinction is NOT an Option.


  • It’s the largest, most effective wildlife conservation agreement in existence. With 178 member countries CITES provides an international framework for monitoring and controlling trade 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. Although the tide is turning, and basking, whale and great white sharks were added in the last decade, there is still often vigorous opposition to the listing of commercially valuable fish under CITES.

At the last meeting held in 2010, eight worthy and more heavily fished shark species were denied listing. More than 130,000 of us have voiced our disappointment and told CITES leaders that their vote matters to us. Project AWARE, together with partner organizations and shark advocates around the world, are committed to ensuring progress for sharks and rays at the next Conference of the Parties to CITES in March 2013. There and then, the 178 member countries will decide whether to protect some of the most vulnerable shark and ray species - hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, and porbeagle sharks and manta rays - from the devastating effects of international trade.