UN-backed forum extends protections for sharks, manta rays and precious timbers

Manta ray. Photo: CITES

14 March 2013 – Five types of sharks and manta rays today formally gained new trade protections in a United Nations-backed meeting at which participants also voted to preserve precious timbers and other plants and animals.

Manta rays, oceanic whitetips, porbeagle sharks and three types of hammerheads will now be listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), effectively banning international trade in them unless shipments are accompanied by documentation showing they were caught legally.

“This is a big day for CITES and for the world’s wildlife. It takes enormous effort to negotiate treaties and then make them work,” the CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, said in a statement, as the World Wildlife Conference wrapped up today in Bangkok, Thailand.

“The international community has today decided to make best use of this pragmatic and effective agreement to help it along the path to sustainability in our oceans and forests.”

The announcement comes on the same day that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that the population of Mediterranean and Black Sea sharks have declined by more than 97 per cent in number and ‘catch weight’ over the past two centuries, putting them at risk of extinction if current fishing levels continue.

In addition to the animals, CITES voted to regulate international trade in a range of rosewoods and ebonies from Asia, Central America and Madagascar.

“Rapidly rising demand for these precious tropical hardwoods has led to serious concerns that unregulated logging is depleting populations of already rare species,” CITES noted.

The rules will not take effect for 18 months to allow countries to resolve “technical and administrative issues.”

During today’s meeting, Member States also decided to strengthen the African Elephant Fund and the African elephant action plan to address the elephant poaching crisis.

Participants also discussed how to more effectively prosecute organized crime groups involved in rhinoceros-related crimes, as well as to enhance community awareness of economic, social and environmental impacts of illicit trafficking in wildlife.

The CITES members also decided to declare 3 March as World Wildlife Day.


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