Aquaculture for all
The Fish Site presents: The Vienna Sessions - Conversations about aquaculture. 9 video interviews with aquaculture thought leaders. Watch here.

Five Shark Species and All Manta Rays Receive Stronger Protection

Sustainability Economics Politics +2 more

GLOBAL - From Sunday 14 September, international trade in specimens of five shark species and all manta ray species, including their meat, gills and fins, will need to be accompanied by permits and certificates confirming that they have been harvested sustainably and legally.

Lucy Towers thumbnail

New controls adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will apply to the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena), porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) and manta rays (Manta spp.) as they are now included in CITES Appendix II.

The CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon, said: “Regulating international trade in these shark and manta ray species is critical to their survival and is a very tangible way of helping to protect the biodiversity of our oceans. The practical implementation of these listings will involve issues such as determining sustainable export levels, verifying legality, and identifying the fins, gills and meat that are in trade. This may seem challenging, but by working together we can do it and we will do it.”

Mr Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said: “FAO will continue its effort and work closely with CITES on immediate actions in support of the implementation of CITES listings of sharks and manta rays, including the provision of legal assistance for fishery legislation, support to the development and implementation of National Plans of Action for sharks and rays, and activities on traceability.”

EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, also welcomed this step: “The importance of protecting sharks and rays from unsustainable trade cannot be overstated: millions of shark specimens are traded annually, mostly for their fins. We have seen alarming declines in the number of sharks over the past years in all our oceans. Being listed on CITES means that control will be easier and unsustainable trade in sharks and rays much more difficult to hide. The EU played a key role to bring about this hugely important development together with its international partners.

“I am also proud that with our full ban on shark finning at seas, the EU is among world leaders in shark protection. Shark finning is a cruel practice that must be stopped. Sharks are more vulnerable to over-exploitation than many other fish, because their reproductive cycle is so long. Once stocks have collapsed it may take many decades for them to recover. We can only eradicate this practice if we work together at international level.”

New CITES rules for sharks and manta rays

Under CITES, exports and re-exports of the new listed species will not be allowed from any of the 180 States Parties unless they have been authorized by the designated national authorities.

Importing consumer States will play their part by ensuring that the correct permits and certificates are present with all shipments. This is a system of unparalleled global cooperation to prevent over-harvesting of these species for international trade. All trade will need to be declared and controlled by Customs authorities and reported to the CITES Secretariat and the data will be made publicly available.

Although this is not the first listing of sharks in the CITES Appendices, it is the first time that shark species of great commercial value, and traded in high volumes, have been included in Appendix II, thereby requiring verification of the sustainability and legality of the trade. According to FAO, the global reported annual shark catches from 2000 to 2009 ranged between 750,000 and 900,000 tonnes.

The listings offer great opportunities for CITES Parties and the world’s fishery communities to take advantage of the CITES universal controls to help ensure that the harvesting of these highly traded marine species is better managed.

An Appendix-II listing under CITES is designed to ensure that commercial international trade is strictly regulated to ensure its sustainability, legality and traceability for the long-term survival of the species in the wild. The decision to list these species was taken by Parties on 14 March 2013, but the entry into effect was delayed until 14 September 2014 to give Parties time to resolve technical and administrative issues in the control of the trade.

Sharks and manta rays are consumed in many parts of the world. Shark fin soup is served at important events such as weddings and banquets in parts of Asia, while fish and chip meals are often made from shark meat in Europe.

Catalyzing action for sharks and manta rays

Over the past 18 months we have witnessed a global collective effort to prepare for the implementation of these new listings, involving countries from across every region, intergovernmental bodies such as the FAO, and many non-governmental organizations.

These include Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Fiji, Germany, India, Morocco, New Zealand, United States of America, FAO, World Customs Organization, Organization of American States, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center, Organizacion del Sector Pesquero y Acuicola del Istmo Centroamericano (OSPESCA, Organization of Fishing and Aquaculture in Central America), Pew Charitable Trusts, SOS – Save Our Species, Oceana, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society, WildAid, TRAFFIC and Monterey Aquarium, to name but a few.

The Secretariats of CITES and FAO benefited from new sources of funding provided by the European Union (EU), and technical and financial support from other partners that have contributed to put in place the necessary tools and measures to implement the listings.

Buoyed by the generous contribution of €1.2 million from the EU to address the challenge, CITES and FAO have worked collaboratively in order to bring the fisheries and CITES communities together in key shark fishing and trading nations.

Close coordination by RFMOs and Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs) at the regional level, and national fisheries agencies at the local level is critical for the effective implementation of these new listings. Much effort has gone into engaging directly with these entities, which will continue to ensure that CITES requirements are complementary to existing measures and contribute to good overall fisheries management.

“It is through global, regional and national collaboration that we will effectively implement these new listings. This global collaborative effort is the most comprehensive we have seen in the 40 year history of the Convention to prepare for the implementation of a new CITES listing,“ concluded Mr Scanlon.


Several countries have entered reservations on some or all of these species: Denmark, on behalf of Greenland (porbeagle shark), Canada, Guyana (all five shark species and the manta rays), Japan (all five shark species), Iceland (porbeagle shark) and Yemen (the three hammerhead sharks). This means that they will not be bound by CITES regulations regarding trade in these species. However, in the case of trade with States that are CITES Parties and that have not entered a reservation, the usual permits or certificates will be required.

The CITES Secretariat has developed a dedicated web portal on the new sharks and manta ray listings, available at: