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March 1, 2013

HSI/India Calls for Government Support of CITES Proposals to Protect Shark and Ray Species

Humane Society International/India

  • Sharks and rays are essential for the health of aquatic ecosystems. iStock

NEW DELHI—Humane Society International/India, in view of the upcoming meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that will take place in Thailand next month, calls on India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests to support shark and ray proposals and give these vulnerable species critical protection. HSI has sent the ministry a support letter along with fact sheets about relevant species compiled by the Species Survival Network, of which HSI is a co-founder and board member.

“India plays an important role in global shark management and conservation as India ranks as the world’s second country for catching the most sharks,” said N.G. Jayasimha, director for HSI India. “The unsustainable trade in shark fins has led to the decimation of shark populations worldwide, including in the Indian Ocean. Humane Society International urges the Indian government to take a leadership position and support the shark and ray proposals at the upcoming CITES meeting. India’s vote matters, not only for sharks, but also for continuing India’s tradition in protecting vulnerable wild animals.”

Ten species of sharks and rays have been proposed for an Appendix II listing, which provides for regulation of commercial trade. They are oceanic whitetip shark, submitted by Brazil, Colombia and the United States; scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead sharks, submitted by Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico; porbeagle shark, submitted by Brazil, Comoros, Croatia, the European Union and Egypt; giant and reef manta rays, submitted by Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador; ocellate river stingray, submitted by Colombia; and rosette and ceja river stingrays, submitted by Colombia and Ecuador. Australia is also proposing to uplist the freshwater sawfish from Appendix II to Appendix I, which prohibits international commercial trade.  

Facts:

  • The CITES treaty was first signed in 1973 in order to protect certain species of wild fauna and flora against over-exploitation through trade. CITES first entered into force on 1 July 1975, and now 175 nations have signed the CITES treaty. India joined CITES in 1976.
  • The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species lists the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) as globally Vulnerable and Critically Endangered in the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic.
  •  The scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) is listed as globally Endangered in the IUCN Red List. Great (Sphyrna mokarran) and smooth (Sphyrna zygaena) hammerhead sharks are listed as Endangered and Vulnerable, respectively. Fins from these hammerhead sharks – which are large, triangular and have a high fin ray count – are very highly prized and can sell for more than US$100 per kilo on the Hong Kong fin market.
  • Porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus) are listed as globally Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. Unsustainable fisheries driven by the high value of porbeagle meat and fins have led to population declines.
  • Freshwater sawfish (Pristis microdon) are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List and are likely to have disappeared from some parts of its global range. Sawfishes are traded for display in aquaria but also for their fins and for their toothed snout, which is used for medicinal purposes.
  • Giant (Manta birostris) and reef (Manta alfredi) manta rays are listed as Threatened in the IUCN Red List, and are traded internationally, mainly for their valuable gill plates, used for medicinal purposes. Dried gill plates can sell for up to US$680 per kilo in China.
  • These freshwater stingrays (Potamotrygon motoro, P. schroederi, and P. aiereba) which are native to South America, are facing population declines due to unsustainable collection of live specimens for the aquarium trade.

Media Contact: N.G. Jayasimha, +91 9490732614, ngjayasimha@hsi.org

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsi.org.

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