You might have seen the posts all over Facebook that thesher sharks, silkie sharks and mobula rays have been voted into CITES Appendix II. But what does that actually mean?
What is CITES
CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is an agreement between governments to prevent that species are under threat by international trade. 183 states are members (Parties) of the agreement which are basically almost all countries in the world.
CITES is legally binding for the Parties but it does not take the place of national laws. Based on the framework the Convention provides each Party has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
The Convention includes 35’000 species of animals and plants which are protected in varying degrees. The idea is to allow a sustainable level of trade of live animals and plants as well as wildlife products derived from them.
How does it work?
Each state has to implement systems to ensure that the species covered in CITES are protected. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea has to be authorized through a system. This system is administered by a management authority implemented in each state. In addition one or more scientific authorities will be designated to advise them on the status of the species and the effect of trade.
For the sharks and rays this includes that the fisheries have to be monitored. Each state has to make sure that only species caught in sustainable fisheries are brought in from the ocean.
What is Appendix II?
Appendices I and II are lists of species that are protected under the CITES.
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade is only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction. The trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
How do species get on that list?
At regular meetings of the Conference of Parties (CoP) with all member states proposals can be submitted to include species to the Appendices I and II. These proposals are discussed during the meeting and then voted on.
During the last meeting (CoP17) the Parties voted among many other species over the protection of thresher sharks, silkie sharks and mobula rays and decided that these species should be included into Appendix II.
After the vote the species still have to be confirmed in the plenary phase. Any of the decisions can be re-opened for debate and a potential other vote. Fingers crossed that the sharks and rays really do make it on the list. We will know it in a few days.
Which sharks are already part of the Appendix II?
Some shark and ray species are already on the list like the oceanic white tip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, basking shark, great white shark, porbeagle, whale shark and mantas. All sawfish are included in Appendix I.