If you want to help save some of the ocean’s top predators and gentle giants from extinction, now is the time to act.
Through March 14, those countries that signed an agreement to ensure the survival of threatened wild animals and plants are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. By signing on to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), they promised to help prevent international trade from contributing to the demise of these species.
Go here to sign the petition urging CITES countries to provide stronger protection for sharks and rays.
Why is this needed?
Project AWARE says this:
Nearly one out of five shark species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as threatened with extinction. That doesn’t even include hundreds of species (almost half of all sharks) whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information. Scientists warn that, in actuality, a third of sharks might already be threatened.
Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in places like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.
They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.
Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink - with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.
Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.
Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea). Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.
Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Finning bans, such as the European Union’s (EU) finning regulations, are fraught with loopholes. Trade in only three species of sharks – basking, great white and whale - are regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Manta Rays at Risk
They’re easy targets. Moving slowly through the ocean, often in predictable aggregations – these gentle, filter-feeding giants are being slaughtered at an alarming rate.
International trade in these species, driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine, poses an immediate threat to their survival. Catch of mantas reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization has almost quadrupled in seven years.
An organization of SCUBA divers, Project Aware also works to reduce trash in our oceans.