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Setting our Sights on CITES

Project AWARE uses the power of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help protect shark and ray species

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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 (CoP18) – to be held in Columbo, Sri Lanka from 23 May to 3 June 2018 – countries, that have agreed to implement the Convention, will review proposals to implement controls on international trade in vulnerable shark and ray species. The Governments of Senegal, Sri Lanka and Mexico announced at the annual meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, held in Moscow in early October, that they would sponsor proposals to list 16 species of giant guitarfish and wedgefish under Appendix II CITES listing which includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but trade is controlled in order to avoid population collapse. Mexico also voiced their support for mako sharks and confirmed that they would be submitting a proposal to list both species of mako shark (longfin and Shortfin) on Appendix II, bringing the number of species under consideration for listing to 18 – a record for sharks and rays at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES.

Project AWARE, together with partner organizations and shark advocates around the world, is committed to ensuring progress for sharks and rays but we need you.

We're setting our sight on CITES but first, you can join #Divers4Makos around the globe and fuel our advocacy work by making a gift today.


With 183 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 6 years of committed advocacy work later, we were thrilled that our collective voice is being 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.

Thirteen Species of sharks and rays - devil rays, thresher sharks and the silky shark - were listed under CITES Appendix II at the conclusion of CITES CoP17 held in October 2016 in South Africa. The listing proposals were supported by more than the two-thirds majority required for adoption in Committee and finalized in Plenary.

Although the tide is turning for sharks and rays, vigorous opposition to the listing of commercially valuable fish under CITES remains. But Project AWARE is delivering a united voice in support of trade controls for the most vulnerable shark and ray species.


In April 2016, we applauded the growing support for proposals to control trade in thirteen commercially valuable shark and ray species. In the run-up to CITES CoP17, we mobilized our community and presented 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 global campaign in the fight to save sharks and rays at risk - rallied the scuba diving community to encourage CITES Parties to vote YES for sharks and rays in September 2016 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 helped bring a positive outcome for sharks and rays at CITES CoP17.

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