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. Project AWARE uses 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, wings, gill plates, meat, oil, teeth and cartilage – from the devastating effects of unregulated, international trade.
During the upcoming meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) – to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016 – countries, that have agreed to implement the Convention, will review proposals to implement controls on international trade in thirteen shark and ray species - nine species of devil rays, three species of thresher sharks and the silky shark.
Project AWARE, together with partner organizations and shark advocates around the world, is committed to ensuring progress for sharks and rays this September but we need you.
With 182 Member Parties, 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.
International trade in shark and ray species, too often, drives overfishing, which - together with finning and bycatch - drive depletion. Controlling international trade through this powerful tool for biodiversity conservation can reduce the pressure on commercially valuable shark and ray populations.
To date, more than 35,000 species of plants and animals are listed under CITES. Increased commitment by Parties to effectively implement the treaty has helped control global overexploitation of wildlife and improve legislation at the national level to enforce CITES. Increased regional communication among Parties has also improved conservation of wildlife across political borders.
CITES and Sharks
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 member countries. Nearly 3 years of committed advocacy work later, we were thrilled that our collective voice was heard. 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 the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) held in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand - with the new controls coming into effect 18 months later. It was a critical step forward in the long-term conservation of these highly traded species. Although the tide is turning for sharks and rays, vigorous opposition to the listing of commercially valuable fish under CITES remains. But now, we have another opportunity to deliver a united voice in support of this year’s shark and ray proposals.
In April 2016, we applauded the growing support for proposals to control trade in thirteen commercially valuable shark and ray species. Until CITES CoP17, we’re mobilizing our community and presenting strong arguments in support of the devil rays, thresher sharks and silky shark Appendix II proposals submitted by the Maldives, Fiji and Sri Lanka and supported by fifty CITES Parties including the European Union.
#Divers4SharksNRays - Project AWARE’s latest global campaign in the fight to save sharks and rays at risk - rallies the scuba diving community to encourage CITES Parties to vote YES for sharks and rays this September and show decision makers that the dive community is serious about protecting sharks and rays from unsustainable, unmanaged and unregulated international trade.
We know from previous historic advances in international shark and ray conservation that the dive community can contribute to helping win protections for vulnerable shark and ray species. Through #Divers4SharksNRays, our collective voice can help bring a positive outcome for sharks and rays at CITES CoP17.