A ray of hope for mako sharks and rhino rays at CITES CoP18 – 18 threatened shark species added to Appendix II
The 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) concluded in Geneva, Switzerland today, bringing great news for mako sharks and rhino rays. With the support of two-thirds majority of parties secured for each listing proposal, shortfin and longfin mako sharks, wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes will be included in the Appendix II of the convention to regulate international trade in these animals and their products.
The proposal to enlist both species of mako sharks under the Appendix II, which was up for voting first, gained the support of 102 parties (nearly 72%), with 40 parties in opposition, and 5 abstaining from vote. With a minimum of 66% required for a proposal to go through, makos were pushed through only by 8 votes. Listing of giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes, jointly nicknamed as “rhino rays”, gained nearly 79% support each, indicating widespread acceptance amongst the parties. These three proposals mean that a total of 18 new threatened shark and ray species will be afforded additional levels of protection through the regulation of international trade in their products.
Commenting on the results of CITES CoP18, Dr. Andy Cornish, Leader of Sharks: Restoring the Balance, WWF’s global shark and ray conservation programme, said: “We greatly welcome the new CITES Appendix II listings for mako sharks, giant guitarfishes, and wedgefishes. There was some concern that some countries might seek to have the mako shark proposal overturned on the last day, but in the end it was not contested. We look forward to pressing ahead and a focus on implementation and enforcement of the listings, so that they have a meaningful impact on wild populations of these threatened species.”
Rhino rays made international headlines earlier this summer when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released the alarming re-assessment of all 16 species of the two ray families. IUCN revealed that all but one were up-listed to “Critically Endangered” on their Red List of Threatened Species, moving one step closer to extinction. This new assessment makes rhino rays one of the most threatened group of marine fishes in the world. Just few months earlier IUCN published a re-assessment for both mako sharks, classifying them as “Endangered” due to ongoing global population declines.
Including all these species in the Appendix II of CITES is crucial to ensuring that any ongoing trade is sustainable, and not driving further population declines in places where these fishes still occur. With no additional grace period to implementation agreed, the listings will come into effect in 90 days. To meet their obligations, countries need to ensure that any international trade in these species is legal, sustainable, and traceable. Conducting Non-Detriment Findings (NDFs) for the Appendix II species will also be necessary to ensure that trade is not jeopardising these species’ survival in the wild. Only once these measures are implemented and then enforced, the Appendix II listings can reach their full potential and have real conservation benefits.
Highlighting the importance of timely and efficient implementation for rhino rays in particular, Dr. Andy Cornish added: “With these rays now listed by CITES, we are urging all range states to act to fully protect these highly threatened species as quickly as possible, unless countries are already in a position to prove that their fisheries are sustainable. We can’t risk pushing them further towards extinction before acting. Protecting critical habitats, prohibiting their catch, and reducing unintended bycatch are all management measures worth considering.”
Mako sharks and rhino rays join 20 other shark species as well as devil and manta rays listed on Appendix II between 2003 and 2017.