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Protecting Endangered Marine Species

Workers cut shark fins at a fish market in Dubai , United Arab Emirates. (June 12, 2012)

U.S. will support proposals to restrict the unsustainable levels of international trade on manta rays and five shark species.

The United States will support proposals to restrict the unsustainable levels of international trade on manta rays and five shark species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, at a March conference in Bangkok, Thailand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced.

Protecting Endangered Marine Species
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Populations of the five shark species – porbeagle, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, and oceanic whitetip – are declining because of fishing pressure, driven in large part by demand for fins for food products such as soup and medicine, while manta rays are being overharvested to meet demand for their gill plates.

“For several decades, we have been increasingly concerned about the overharvest of sharks and manta rays,” said Ashe, who is heading the U.S. delegation to the treaty’s 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok. “We believe that CITES is a valuable tool to address the threats posed by unsustainable global trade in shark fins and other marine species and their parts and products.”

The United States is co-sponsoring with Colombia and Brazil a proposal to list oceanic whitetip shark in Appendix II, and will support proposals by other countries to protect manta rays and the other four shark species. If approved by two-thirds vote of CITES member nations, the listings will increase protection but still allow legal and sustainable trade in the five shark species and all manta rays.

Director Ashe made the announcement at a gathering of representatives from CITES member nations, including small island States in the Pacific and Caribbean and some key African countries, who met at the United Nations to discuss the proposals in advance of the March conference. The meeting was hosted by the U.S., Germany and Honduras and supported by the Pew Environment Group.

“Sharks and manta rays are extremely important to the ocean ecosystems,” said Sam Rauch, acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The global protection that CITES offers to these incredible species will complement shark measures that have been adopted regionally, and will help ensure their survival.”

CITES is an international agreement signed by 177 nations designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade. Approximately 34,000 species currently benefit from CITES protection.

The United States is proud to work with it international partners protect endangered species of plants and animals throughout the world.