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Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species votes to save endangered species of sharks and rays

14/03/2013 12:45

A historic vote to improve the sustainability of the international trade of eight species of sharks and rays that are listed as threatened on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is among the key decisions taken at the CITES wildlife trade summit closing today in Bangkok.


Other decisions taken at the 16th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) include strengthening measures to reduce poaching and illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, which have increased dramatically in recent years.


“The decisions taken at CITES will help secure the survival of many threatened species in the wild,” says IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “We are delighted to see that the scientific expertise on the biology, conservation and trade of species provided to the Convention by IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and TRAFFIC was key in supporting evidence-based decision making at the Bangkok meeting.”


The conference saw a record number of countries vote to regulate the international trade in the Oceanic Whitetip Shark, three hammerhead species, the Porbeagle shark and the two existing species of manta rays. Parties also voted to ban the international commercial trade in the Critically Endangered Freshwater Sawfish.


The rising demand for shark fins, shark meat, gill plates, and aquarium animals is seriously threatening the survival of these species, according to IUCN. Up to 1.2 million Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, which are fished for their large and distinctive fins, pass through the markets of Southeast Asia every year and over 4,000 manta rays are harpooned for their gills.


“This is a historic step towards better protection of these marine species,” says Nick Dulvy, Co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Shark Specialist Group. “Now, after nearly two decades of slow and fragmentary progress, Parties agreed that CITES can complement existing national fisheries measures to ensure that global trade is sustainable and legal.”


To tackle rising levels of poaching of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and illegal ivory trade, Parties agreed on improved measures for the regulation of the global illegal ivory trade, including the development of country-specific actions. Support was also re-affirmed for the global monitoring systems that underpin decision-making under the Convention, as well as the African Elephant Action Plan.


Conservation of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) was also addressed, including greater recognition of the illegal trade in live elephants and advancing the development of an Asian Elephant Conservation Strategy with all Asian elephant range states by November 2013.


The conference identified significant range, transit and consumer states most affected by illegal rhino horn trade as well as a process of reporting back on specific urgent actions to be taken by those countries.


According to the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, poaching of African rhinos increased by 43% between 2011 and 2012 and illegal rhino horn trade continues to pose a serious threat to rhinos worldwide.


Delegates in Bangkok also agreed on tighter controls of international trade in timber species in Madagascar, such as rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) and ebony (Disopyros spp.) and adopted measures to reduce the impact of trade on some species of tortoise and freshwater turtles to increase their prospects for survival.


Other decisions taken at the meeting include actions relating to a number of crocodile and snake species, a renewed focus on monitoring of the trade in pangolins and continued commitment to sustainably manage the Humphead Wrasse fishery – an Endangered, coral-dwelling species that was one of the first commercially fished species to be addressed under CITES.


“Some of the decisions made in this meeting will be challenging to implement,” says Richard Jenkins, UK Manager of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “However, there is real hope now that international trade in sharks and shark products, as well as the other species addressed here, will become more sustainable and their conservation status subsequently improved.”



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