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Five Species of Shark and Two Manta Ray Species Now Protected by CITES

Conference in Thailand breaks wall set up by those opposed to protections of shark species that are captured and finned.

March 14, 2013

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Manta birostris

Giant manta ray (Manta birostris). Photo by Jon Hanson/Wikipedia
Five species of sharks and two species of manta ray were given trade protections during the 16th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that just concluded in Bangkok, Thailand. The vote two-thirds vote from the 177 CITES member governments puts the number of shark species protected by CITES to eight. The new additions to the list include the oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) and porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) and three species of hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), and scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) shark. The protected manta rays are the oceanic manta (Manta birostris), and reef manta (Manta alfredi).

"This is a major win for some of the world's most threatened shark species, with action now required to control the international trade in their fins," Susan Lieberman, director of international environment policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a statement released by the Trusts. "This victory indicates that the global community will collaborate to address the plight of some of the most highly vulnerable sharks and manta ray species. Today was the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES."


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Lieberman also said that the gridlock created by those countries opposed to the listing of these species has been broken. Sharks have declined by as much as 90 percent in some areas of the world due to the practice of finning, in which sharks are taken from the ocean, their fins removed and the shark thrown back to sea. The fins are then sold in China and other countries in Asia, the United States, and around the world as the main ingredient for shark fin soup. Manta rays have been killed for their gill rakers, which are used to filter food from the water column, to make a so-called Asian “health tonic” that has not been proven to aid in any health malady.

The trust also said that now that the commitment to protect these species is on the books, the regulations must be fully implemented and enforced to ensure that these animals recover to ensure a sustainable future for them as well as the larger marine ecosystems that are dependent upon them for the overall health of their environments. Sharks have been disappearing at alarming rates worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that 143 species of shark are threatened with extinction, largely due to human factors such as finning. It is estimated that more than a million sharks are killed each year by fisherman who fin them and throw the still live shark into the ocean to drown. That estimate is a conservative one. Some estimate the number of sharks killed each year at close to 250,000.

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