History was made today in Bangkok, when Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) voted to protect five species of sharks and two species of manta rays. The seven protected species are: oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead (S. mokarran), smooth hammerhead (S. zygaena), oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) and reef manta ray (M. alfredi).
All seven species are considered threatened by international trade – the sharks for their fins, and the manta rays for their gills, which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. CITES protection is an important complement to fisheries management measures, which, for these species, have failed to safeguard their survival.
The vote was to list the animals for protection under Appendix II which does not entail a ban on the trade, but instead means that trade must be regulated. Exporting countries are required to issue export permits, and can only do so if they can ensure that they have been legally caught, and that their trade is not detrimental to the species’ survival.
All of the proposals received the two-thirds majority needed to be accepted – but the listing is not yet final. Decisions can be overturned with another vote during the final plenary session of the meeting, which wraps up on Thursday. This is what happened with porbeagle sharks in the 2010 CITES meeting in Qatar – an Appendix II listing approved by the Committee evaporated with another vote in plenary. As a result, at that meeting, none of the proposed shark species were granted protection. Now, three years later, we’re hopeful that the international community finally sees the importance of regulating the trade that puts these animals at risk.
Keep your fingers crossed!
As 2013 rapidly approaches, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Oceana. Thanks to your support, we were able to achieve more than a dozen major victories for the oceans! You signed petitions to lawmakers and companies, submitted seafood samples and participated in rallies and events, and it made a difference. Here are five of the major victories we won in 2012 as a result:
1. Alibaba.com stops selling manta ray products
When Oceana discovered that the online international marketplace Alibaba.com was selling manta ray products, we asked for your help in stopping it. Nearly 40,000 of you responded by signing our petition, and Alibaba listened, removing manta ray leather products from the website.
2. Victories for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle
2012 was a good year for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles. We helped establish the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in continental U.S. waters this year. The government designated nearly 42,000 square miles of critical habitat off the West Coast. The Pacific leatherback was also designated as California’s official state reptile following a bill sponsored and supported by Oceana with the support of thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation groups.
Photographer Tony Wu has a cool story up on his blog today. While shooting a large manta ray near Sri Lanka earlier this week, he was suddenly accosted by the normally-peaceful animal. The manta ray emitted a weird screeching noise as it headbutted him, telling him in no uncertain terms to back off. Tony swam away with what he jokingly calls "the first documented case of 'manta burn.'"
Tony describes the sound on his blog, but can't track down any documented reports of manta rays making any noise at all. Our own Explore section says mantas are sometimes "sociable with divers," though - perhaps Tony just got this one on an off day.