BANGKOK, THAILAND (March 11, 2013) - Delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have taken the significant step of voting to protect two manta ray and five shark species at the 16th Conference of the Parties. Sharks have been heavily targeted for their fins and mantas for their gill rakers, despite the species’ proven value to ocean ecosystem health and to global ecotourism.
Species need a 2/3 vote in favor among member countries in order to be listed on the Appendices of CITES, the only international treaty empowered to designate which species are in sufficient danger of extinction to warrant protection from trade. The following shark and ray species were proposed and voted for inclusion in Appendix II yesterday at the meeting in Bangkok, Thailand:
Conservation organizations Shark Savers and WildAid celebrated these victories today, noting the significance of the successful vote in favor of manta rays despite CoP16 being the first time the species were proposed for protection. (By contrast, achieving the votes the much-needed protection for the several shark species took several attempts over multiple years and CITES meetings). Shark Savers’ and WildAid’s Manta Ray of Hope Program, and partner the Manta Trust, took the lead in educating CITES delegates on the importance and economic value of protecting manta rays. The 2012 Manta Ray of Hope report, Global Threats to Manta and Mobula Rays, was the first comprehensive study to document the global decline of manta populations due to the trade in gill rakers.
Shawn Heinrichs, leader of Manta Ray of Hope Program, said, “This is truly a great day for sharks and mantas—a day long overdue. Sharks and their charismatic cousins, the manta rays, can generate tens of millions of dollars annually through ecotourism and hold an important and long-lasting value for the overall health of the oceans.”
“The addition of these seven shark and manta species to CITES Appendix II are an important step forward in stemming the incredibly destructive trade,” added Mary O’Malley, co-leader of Manta Ray of Hope Program and a Shark Savers’ Director. “We are so thankful to the international community of CITES delegates for protecting these important and vulnerable species, and to the host country of Thailand for speaking in favor of listing mantas.”
CITES votes are pending until confirmed at the final plenary session on March 14th. Shark Savers and WildAid, along with a strong coalition of conservation organizations and NGOs present at CITES CoP16 will maintain their presence and continue to support these historic listings.
Oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, porbeagles, and mantas populations are threatened by international trade pressures, and are among 182 shark and ray species listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable or Endangered with Extinction.
Shark Savers: Lisa Amend, 719.201.3619, email@example.com
WildAid: Zach Weismann, 415-834-3174, firstname.lastname@example.org
About WildAid: WildAid focuses on addressing the human threat to wildlife. Our comprehensive approach includes public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products, and working with communities to support and enforce key protected habitats around the world. WildAid has also defined a comprehensive marine enforcement model that focuses on the law enforcement chain, which encompasses the activities of detection, interception, prosecution, and the sentencing of lawbreakers. For more information, please visit www.wildaid.org.
About Shark Savers: Shark Savers was founded in 2007 by six long-time divers driven by a shared passion – to save the world’s dwindling shark and ray populations. Today, more than 25,000 members from 99 nations share that passion. Focusing on action and results, Shark Savers programs result in saving the lives of sharks and rays. By leveraging professional experience and expertise, Shark Savers brings this important issue to the masses in many compelling forms, motivating people to stop consuming sharks and shark fin soup, and working for the creation of shark sanctuaries and other protections. For more information, please visit www.sharksavers.org
About Manta Ray of Hope: The Manta Ray of Hope campaign is a joint initiative that includes top field investigators, leadings scientists and researchers, all working together to further the conservation of manta and mobula rays. http://www.mantarayofhope.com
Download the report: http://www.sharksavers.org/manta-report
To sign the petition to protect manta rays: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Protect_Manta_Rays
Video and photographs for press available upon request.