Coast KZN

28 Sep 2016

Sharks, rays still critically endangered

Mel Frykberg (African News Agency)

(Gansbaai sharks) Unique markings on the characteristic triangular dorsal fin of the Great White Shark allow individual animals to be identified. Photo Credit: Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Sharks are in trouble. About 100 million are killed by commercial fishers each year, and the global trade in their fins and meat is unsustainable.

Sharks are in trouble. About 100 million are killed by commercial fishers each year, and the global trade in their fins and meat is unsustainable.

“These ancient and vulnerable animals can’t withstand this level of pressure, their populations have plummeted around the world,” says Joshua Reichert who leads the environment works at The Pews Charitable Trust, which is taking part in the CITES conference.

“Given the critically important role that sharks play in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems, these mortality rates have significant implications for ocean health worldwide,” Reichert was quoted as saying in an information brochure distributed at the conference. “But there is promising news. CITES, long considered one of the best tools to ensure that global trade does not threaten the survival of species, has enacted trade regulations for five commercially valuable shark species and all manta rays.” Protection of these species has become a critical part of CITES’ work. In 1975 no shark or ray species were listed for protection by CITES listing.However, CITES now governs the trade in shark and ray products – such as meat, oil, and gill-plates. Nevertheless the fin trade remains the principle driver of shark declines, and that area is where the CITES listings are having the most significant impact. Around the world, from China to Chile countries are introducing measures to protect the newly listed species from prohibiting their landing or trade to setting scientifically based sustainable catch limits that will help halt declines and allow populations to recover.

The 181 Parties to CITES are making concerted efforts to effectively implement these recent CITES listings of sharks and manta rays. This has been complemented by a global collection effort to support implementation that is unprecedented in the 40-year history of the CITES convention. This has included the European Union contributing 1.2 million euros through the CITES Secretariat to assist developing countries implement the new CITES listings of sharks and manta rays during the 2013-2016 period.

The CITES Secretariat works in close cooperation with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation as well as with the regional fisheries management organisations and regional fisheries bodies, to ensure that CITES measures are complementary to their ongoing efforts, as well as to the sustainable fisheries management efforts in general. Other stakeholders, including government agencies, international organisations, academia, foundations and philanthropists, and non-governmental organisations, are all stepping up their individual efforts in helping to develop various tools, resources, and expertise to assist developing countries manage trade in shark products.