There are over 1,000 species of sharks and rays, but only about 100 species of them are found in the international fin trade. Of those, approximately 1/3 of them are threatened with extinction.
Over the past 2 Conferences of the Parties (CoPs), Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) began to recognize that the international fin trade driving these declines required closer management in order to prevent population collapses of some of the most heavily traded and vulnerable shark species.
The seminal study on the global shark fin trade indicates that between 11.8% and 15.5% of the global shark fin trade is now listed on CITES Appendix II. A recent study on fins on sale in Hong Kong provides a separate index, and confirms the significance of these species in trade, with the study finding that between 3.9% and 17.8% of fins sampled were from CITES listed species.
Following six years of dedicated implementation efforts for sharks and rays by CITES Parties, the Secretariat, IGOs and NGOs, effective management of shark species and their trade has become a global priority. For many species and for too long, measures by Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMOs) and domestic management had been piecemeal and failed to cover large parts of their range. CITES listings for these species sparked governments across the world to develop a wide range of effective implementation tools and to host workshops and trainings on the importance of shark conservation to roll out these tools. Such efforts have in turn driven the establishment of domestic regulations to better manage CITES listed species within their waters.
It is clear that CITES works for sharks and rays, and that there are ample, effective tools available as well as strong benefits from CITES Appendix II listings. Such listings should be extended to other at risk shark and ray species in order to encourage similar protections or sustainable fisheries management. Sharks help maintain balance in marine ecosystems. When their populations decline, unpredictable consequences in the ocean environment may result, including the possible collapse of commercially important fisheries.
Proposed Species for CITES Appendix II
Recognizing the great work done to create non-detriment findings and domestic measures to manage catch and trade of CITES listed shark species, many CITES Parties have identified additional shark and ray species whose populations are threatened by international trade and would benefit from a CITES Appendix II listing.
Giant guitarfish (Family Glaucostegidae), shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus), and wedgefish (Family Rhinidae), are all proposed for Appendix II of CITES, meaning that if listed, catch and trade in these species must be legal and sustainable. Due to inadequate management measures, poor enforcement of the measures that do exist, and a lack of control over the level of sustainability or international trade, these species have all suffered declines of over 70% across their range and in some areas have been driven to extinction.
If listed, any continued catch and trade in these species must be legal and sustainable, allowing these species to survive and recover.
Many giant guitarfish populations are suspected to be 50% diminished in some regions, but most are suffering population loss from 80% to localized extinctions.
Mako sharks meet the CITES Appendix II listing criteria, with declines from 60-96% worldwide. Up to 1 million are caught each year, an unsustainable number driven by high international demand for their fins and meat and inadequate management.
Wedgefish fins fetch the highest price of all shark fins on the international market, driving population declines up to 86% in some areas, over a period of only 5 years.