1. What is CITES?
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments, established to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.
2. How is CITES different from other Conventions?
CITES is legally binding on the Parties and provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which must adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level. CITES currently comprises of 183 Parties and offers protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.
3. What do the different appendices mean?
Species listed on CITES are assigned to one of three appendices, the Appendix that lists a species or population reflects the extent of the threat to it and the controls that apply to the trade.
Appendix I: species that are threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by trade. Commercial trade in wild-caught specimens of these species is illegal.
Appendix II: species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is subject to strict regulation, to avoid exploitation that jeopardizes wild populations. Appendix II can also include species similar in appearance to species already listed in the Appendices.
Appendix III: species that are listed after a member country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade in said species. The species are not necessarily threatened with extinction globally.
4. Why are sharks and rays different from other fish?
Sharks and rays are part of a group of fishes called elasmobranchs which have skeletons made of cartilage instead of bone like all other fish species. A further difference from boney fishes, is that shark and rays share life-history traits more closely aligned to mammals than fish such as slow growth rates, late to reach reproductive maturity, and have few offspring at one time.
5. Why are sharks and rays traded internationally?
Predominantly the fins and meat of sharks and rays are the parts that enter international markets. Shark and ray fins are in high demand, especially in Asia, for use in the luxury dish of shark fin soup. This is an incredibly lucrative market with prices as high as $800 USD/Kg. Shark meat reaches international markets, though the majority of which appears restricted to a handful of species. Other shark and ray products traded internationally include jaws, teeth, skin, liver oil, gill plates, and squalene.
6. Why is CITES management important for sharks?
Every year, between 63 million to 273 million sharks are caught and killed in commercial fisheries, an unsustainable number. The demand for shark fins, meat, liver oil, and other products continues to drive population declines worldwide, and more than half of all shark and ray species are estimated to be threatened or near threatened with extinction due to overfishing. At best, only around 17% of the international shark fin trade is regulated, leaving some of the most threatened shark and ray species, including several of the highest value in trade, unlisted and unprotected.
The safeguards of CITES Appendix II listings, and the need for sustainable, traceable and legal fisheries that they bring is helping encourage better management and conservation action for sharks and rays all over the world.
7. How has CITES helped manage shark and ray trade, and fisheries that underpin that trade?
To showcase a small subset of global progress since 2013, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, the United States of America, Peru, Colombia and New Zealand have developed CITES non-detriment findings for shark and ray species that set sustainable catch or trade levels. Cape Verde, Philippines, India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia (manta rays) have prohibited export or catch of CITES listed species, as a conservation and management measure. Hong Kong SAR, the global hub of the shark fin trade, has confiscated over five metric tons of illegally traded fins of CITES-listed species.
8. What tools are available to assist Parties implement CITES shark and ray listings?
For information on tools available to assist CITES parties, please click here.
9. Which shark and ray species are currently listed on CITES?
For the full list of shark and ray species listed in the CITES Appendices, please click here.