Good news for marine species: Silky sharks, thresher sharks and mobula rays now receive greater protection as they have been placed under Appendix II of CITES. This means that they can only be traded internationally as long as it is at a sustainable level.
“Sharks are prone to being overfished and the stocks of many species have plummeted. Trade restrictions will help to regulate the fisheries and reduce the pressure on the depleted stocks,” said Catherine Zucco, fisheries expert at WWF Germany in German. Both silky sharks and thresher sharks are being fished extensively; in addition, both species often end up as bycatch in the nets meant for tuna and swordfish.
Silky sharks are one of the three main shark species caught for their fins. In international markets, up to 1.5 million silky sharks are estimated to be killed for this reason every year. Thresher sharks are caught mainly for their meat, which is sold worldwide. Stocks have declined worldwide, dropping by an estimated 99 percent in the Mediterranean.
Mobula rays (sometimes called “devil rays”) are caught for their meat, particularly their gill plates which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. According to the WWF, there is a lack of regulation. The countries that are responsible for up to 95 percent of the capture and export of mobula rays are Sri Lanka, India, Peru, Indonesia and China.
Even the vaquita porpoise, the smallest cetacean in the world (see also Vaquitas receive legal protection), will be better protected in the future. Its population has shrunk to just 60 individuals, as they often end up as bycatch in nets meant for the totoaba fish, also an endangered species. Demand for the totoaba fish is high as its swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China, fetching record prices.
“Two protected species are being illegally fished to extinction in the Gulf of California. We need better restrictions and regulations on fishing and trafficking from Mexico to the United States and then to the Chinese market,” said Zucco. To date, three American states have expressed their commitment to improve the implementaton and control of the existing trade ban on totoaba, within the context of CITIES.