An outpouring of support from the scuba diving community for critical CITES protections
Five species of highly traded sharks, both manta rays and one species of sawfish were listed under CITES at the conclusion of CoP16 held this month in Bangkok, Thailand. Delegates from 170 countries considered 70 proposals affecting more than 300 species, including eight of some of the most vulnerable sharks and manta rays.
“We’re proud that divers’ voice has contributed to achieving this key milestone for sharks and ray conservation and we’re grateful to proponent governments for recognizing the value of thriving shark and ray populations, and for championing sound proposals,” said Ania Budziak, Project AWARE’s Associate Director of Science and Policy.
The oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, three species of hammerheads and both manta rays – all classified as threatened on IUCN’s Red List – are now added to CITES Appendix II. “This is a significant and historic achievement for marine species in general, specifically manta rays which are the first Elasmobranch species to be listed under CITES on the first attempt,” said Budziak. “Scalloped hammerheads, among the most endangered and most commonly taken in illegal fishing operations for their valuable fins, received a surprising majority.”
Since 2010, when eight shark species were declined CITES listing, the scuba diving community joined with shark advocates around the world, have campaigned for this moment. Armed with more than 135,000 shark petition signatures and 245,000 letters sent direct to CITES delegates, Project AWARE has taken every opportunity to put CITES protections front and center on government agendas. Along with our partners, we’ve met with CITES representatives, participated in public consultation processes and worked on shark protection issues at every turn including the IUCN World Conservation Congress, meeting of the signatories to the CMS MOU on Shark Conservation and CITES preparatory workshops in Mozambique and Senegal.
“This is an enormous victory, not only for the vulnerable species and ocean ecosystems, but for the coastal communities globally whose tourism-based economies rely on healthy, thriving shark and ray populations,” said Alex Earl, Project AWARE’s Executive Director. “It’s also a significant achievement for the marine protection movement as a whole. This conference was the very first to consider an unprecedented number of shark and ray proposals and there has never been stronger momentum for their protections than now.”
What’s next for the campaign to protect sharks and rays? “We now urge all Parties to CITES to work swiftly on implementing the obligations to ensure sustainable international trade,” said Alex Earl. “But for the moment, we celebrate the significance of these historic decisions.”
Heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who joined the Project AWARE movement and campaigned for this amazing milestone. The passion and dedication of ocean advocates is unmatched. We’re proud of our achievements together and we couldn’t have done it without you.