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CITES Getting Ready for Sharks and Rays

Sep. 14/13
CITES

Twelve months before the entry into force of CITES regulations on shark and rays, the European Union approves a 1.2 million euro project to ensure their effective implementation. Brazil, China, Germany, Japan and the United States have also offered support and technical assistance.

The inclusion of shark and ray species in CITES in March 2013 was a clear sign that the international community intends to step up its efforts for the protection of marine biodiversity globally.

Mr Timo Makela, Director of the Global and Regional Challenges Directorate of the European Commission

The 178 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are preparing for the implementation of the shark and ray listings that they adopted at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Parties have exactly 12 months to put in place the measures that will allow effective CITES controls of international trade in the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena), porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) and manta rays (Manta spp.). The regulations will enter into force on 14 September 2014.

From that time onward, any international trade in specimens of these species will need to be accompanied by CITES permits confirming that they have been harvested sustainably and legally, and this trade will also need to be reported to the CITES Secretariat.

The European Union has made available 1.2 million euros to the Secretariat to support developing countries in the sustainable management and enhanced implementation of CITES regulations for commercially-exploited aquatic species. This financial contribution will be used to strengthen scientific, institutional and enforcement capacity.

On this occasion, the CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon, said: “The decisions taken by CITES to list these sharks and rays was an important first step in ensuring their international trade is legal, sustainable and traceable. Effective implementation of these decisions is what matters now and we will do everything we can to assist CITES Parties, especially developing countries, in being able to comply with the CITES requirements by 14 September 2014. This will require support from a wide-range of stakeholders - Parties, IGOs, NGOs and others - and we thank everyone that is assisting in this effort, particularly the European Union for its very generous financial support.”

Mr Timo Makela, Director of the Global and Regional Challenges Directorate of the European Commission, said: “The inclusion of shark and ray species in CITES in March 2013 was a clear sign that the international community intends to step up its efforts for the protection of marine biodiversity globally. Through its 1.2 million euro project, the European Union shows that it is fully committed to a successful implementation of the CITES requirements for those species. We will be working closely with the CITES Secretariat and other Parties so that those measures make a real difference in favour of the conservation of sharks and for the fishermen.”

Following on from the shark proposals they presented at the CITES CoP16 in March, the Brazilian authorities highlighted that “COP16 results are directly linked to the commitments made by the international community on sustainable fisheries during Rio+20. They show the world that countries are ready to work together to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and that Parties will take effective actions in this regard.” Brazil recognized the need to enable member States to implement the decisions taken during COP16 and expressed its readiness to contribute to the capacity-building efforts, which it discussed with the CITES Secretary-General during a mission to Brasilia in May, 2013. The Government of Brazil, in collaboration with other governments and NGO partners, has announced it will hold a regional workshop on data collection and identification of sharks included in Appendix II from 3 to 4 December 2013 in Pernambuco, Brazil.

During discussions held in Bonn on 24 July, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) informed the CITES Secretary-General that Germany has launched a study to develop guidelines and recommendations for CITES Parties on how to make Non-detriment findings (NDFs) for the porbeagle and other shark species and is considering holding an international Workshop on NDFs for sharks in 2014. Senior official Elsa Nickel (BMU) said: “We hope that this initiative will contribute to develop the scientific information indispensable to the sustainable management of these sharks.”

China advised the CITES Secretariat in June 2013 that, in spite of its opposition to the inclusion of these shark species in the CITES Appendices at CoP16, and of ongoing concerns regarding implementation, it would apply the CITES decisions and, as a result, did not enter any reservation. In July 2013, the CITES Secretary-General met with the 21 Branch offices of the Chinese Management Authority at a National CITES Retreat and Training session held in Jilin Province, China, where the implementation of the shark and rays listing were discussed.

Mr Scanlon also met with the Japanese Management Authority, relevant ministries and other stakeholders in Japan and noted that, while Japan had entered a reservation on the five species of sharks, it had also expressed its willingness to comply voluntarily with the Convention requirements for export permits and to provide technical support to prepare for the entry into effect of the sharks listing, the details of which were discussed, including in the field of shark fin identification.

With support from the United States of America, the Secretariat also participated in subregional workshops for Central America in May and September 2013. Parties in the subregion agreed to work together on the implementation of the new shark and manta ray listings and will meet again in early 2014 to develop their plans.

The CITES Secretariat is closely cooperating with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and both organizations have agreed a joint plan of action to involve regional fishery management organizations in the implementation of the CITES listings. On 8 July, delegations from FAO and the CITES Secretariat met in Rome to discuss collaboration opportunities in the implementation of the EU-CITES Shark project, the first session being chaired by Mr Arni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, and the CITES Secretary-General.

The European Commission contracted TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization, to carry out a rapid assessment of capacity-building priorities and needs. TRAFFIC has analysed the most recently available catch and trade data from FAO, collated information found in published sources, and contacted CITES authorities, NGOs and other experts for additional information.

In another effort to improve the legal frameworks for sharks, rays and other CITES-listed species, and following a request from several Caribbean countries at CoP16, the CITES Secretariat also undertook a series of back-to-back legislative assistance missions to Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago from 10 to 21 June 2013.