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Sawfish and Mantas Follow Sharks on CITES Agenda, Receive Overwhelming Support

Project AWARE News

Proposals to list close relatives of sharks also advance on historic day at COP

Bangkok, 11 March 2013.  Following on the heels of unprecedented Committee votes to control international trade in commercially valuable sharks, Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) went on to adopt proposals to list three species of closely related rays by even wider margins.

Australia’s proposal to add the Critically Endangered freshwater sawfish to CITES Appendix I and thereby complete a global ban on commercial international trade in all sawfish species was adopted by consensus, while 80% of countries voting supported Ecuador’s bid to establish international trade controls for two species of manta ray.  All CITES Committee decisions need to be finalized in plenary on Thursday. 

“The sawfishes are among the oceans’ most threatened species and urgently need the strongest protections possible,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.  “The freshwater sawfish has not been seen for decades in much of its former Indo-West Pacific range, and yet was denied CITES Appendix I protection in 2007 when all other sawfish species were listed as such.   It has been sixteen years since the U.S. first proposed listing this and other sawfish species on CITES Appendix I. Uplisting of the freshwater sawfish can bolster enforcement of protections for other species and help prevent extinction of these remarkable animals.”

“The Committee’s overwhelming support for listing mantas under CITES demonstrates widespread recognition of the urgent need to curb the international trade in manta gill rakers and thereby protect the current and future benefits of manta-based tourism, said Ania Budziak, Associate Director of Science & Policy at Project AWARE Foundation.  “Mantas are favorites of divers due in part to their tendency to move slowly in predictable aggregations, but these habits also make the species easy targets for fishermen. By confirming today’s decision in Thursday’s plenary session, countries can begin the work toward trade measures that can ensure a brighter future for these majestic rays.”

The German Elasmobranch Society, Humane Society International, Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Wildlife Conservation Society, with support from Oceans 5, are working as a coalition to promote the proposals to list shark and ray species at the 16th Conference of Parties to CITES.

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