Sharks Receive New Protection at CITES

With an estimated 97 million sharks being harvested each year, serious protection measures can’t come soon enough. At the March 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, member nations agreed to list the oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead shark (scalloped, smooth, and great), the porbeagle shark, and both species of manta rays in CITES Appendix II, an action that means increased protection but that still allows legal and “sustainable” trade. However, the protections must be enforced or the designations will be meaningless.

Countries supporting the listing included Brazil, Colombia, the European Union, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Comoros, Egypt, the United States, and countries in West Africa, with opposition coming from Japan, Gambia, India, Grenada, and China. Sharks continue to be overharvested to meet Asian demand for shark fin soup, and through bycatch; fishermen also catch some shark species for their meat, while others kill manta rays for their gill plates for use in Chinese medicine.