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Trade in silky and thresher sharks now to be strictly regulated

All three species of thresher sharks and the silky shark were included under Appendix II of CITES in 2016. Countries were granted a one-year grace period "put the necessary regulations and processes into place". The trade restrictions came into force this week.

International trade in silky and thresher sharks will now be strictly regulated, according to a press release by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

All three species of thresher sharks (Alopias spp.) and the silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) were listed under CITES last year at the 17th Conference of Parties to the CITES held in Johannesburg, South Africa. But given the high commercial value of the sharks and the challenges involved in identifying products derived from these species, countries were granted a one-year grace period to “put the necessary regulations and processes into place”.

The rules came into force on October 4, 2017.

The four sharks are included within the Appendix II of CITES, which means that the sharks, or any product from them, can be globally traded. However, the exporting countries must be able to show that the products were sourced legally and were fished sustainably, at levels that do not threaten the survival of the shark species.

“Contrary to certain misconceptions, CITES Appendix II does not prohibit the harvesting or international trade in any shark species, rather it has brought them under its strict trade controls to ensure that any such trade is legal, sustainable and reported,” CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon said in the statement. “These efforts will in turn contribute towards achieving enhanced sustainable fisheries management, and ending destructive fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and thereby supporting the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Trade in thresher sharks will now be strictly regulated. Photo by Thomas Alexander (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

However, merely listing the species under CITES is not enough, some conservationists warn.

Many countries are yet to present reliable data on what constitutes sustainable levels of fishing and whether trade endangers a species, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, noted in a statement. Measures to control overfishing, too, are inadequate in several countries.

So the listings mark a starting point, not an end goal, said TRAFFIC’s Fisheries Trade Programme Leader Glenn Sant.

Andy Cornish, Shark & Ray Initiative Leader at WWF International, added: “While some controls on fishing these species exist, they have largely been inadequate to prevent serious population declines. We anticipate that many countries and regional fisheries management bodies will need to tackle overfishing through new management measures to allow population recoveries. The sooner they do so, the sooner the prospect of sustainable fisheries.”

All three species of thresher sharks are listed as Vulnerable to extinction in the IUCN Red List. The silky shark — the second most caught shark species, according to the IUCN — is listed as Near Threatened.

The silky shark is the second most caught species of sharks in the world. Photo by Alex Chernikh (Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5).

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