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Critical Step for Sharks: The Sequel

Project AWARE News

Your voice mattered again this week. On June 11th, 2012 Project AWARE Foundation together with Shark Advocates International, Humane Society International, and WildAid sent a letter to the United States Fish And Wildlife Service as part of a public comment process on potential U.S. proposals for listing sharks and other species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Our arguments for prioritizing shark and ray listing are strengthened by over 100,000 of your voices for shark and ray conservation. Thank you!

This comment period marked a second, critical step  in the US process toward securing international trade protections for sharks and rays at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in March 2013 in Thailand (CITES CoP16). In our submission, we focus on oceanic whitetip, hammerheads, and porbeagle sharks as well as highlight the plight of sawfish. In particular, we urge the U.S. to:

* update and reissue a proposal to list oceanic whitetip sharks in CITES Appendix II;
* work with other Parties to ensure the submission of a sound proposal to include scalloped, great, and smooth hammerhead sharks in Appendix II;
* actively support other Parties’ efforts to list porbeagle sharks as well as manta and devil rays under CITES Appendix II; and
* work to ensure that all the world’s sawfishes are protected under CITES Appendix I, as proposed by the U.S. in 1997 and 2007.

All of these species are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation because of their low reproductive capacity and insufficient fishing controls. And CITES Animals Committee - an expert group providing scientific advice and guidance to CITES members and others- have also highlighted these sharks and rays as species of concern.

Except for sawfish, these species are traded internationally in substantial quantities and are subject to persistent demand that drives targeted fisheries and retention of bycatch. All of the shark species that we consider to be high priorities for listing proposals - oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, and porbeagles - have been previously proposed or supported for listing by the U.S. The associated proposals have been analyzed and endorsed by the CITES Secretariat, TRAFFIC, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ad hoc review panel.

We remain grateful to the U.S. for spearheading international shark and ray conservation and hopeful that the U.S. will again play a leadership role in efforts to include oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks in CITES Appendix II, and will actively support other Parties’ proposals to list porbeagles and manta/devil rays (also under Appendix II).

And we will continue to push forward in helping ensure decisive CITES action for sharks and rays next year in Thailand. Be sure your voice is heard and sign the petition to protect sharks and rays.

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