Silky shark, © Alex Chernikh/WikiCommons

Stepping up for Sharks: The Next CITES Conference of the Parties

Examining new proposed regulations to help protect thresher and silky shark species from the devastating impacts of international trade

Three years ago, at the 16th Conferences of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), we celebrated a huge win for sharks. Following more than a decade of work, five shark species were listed under CITES, putting much-needed regulations in place on the international trade of these species, including their parts and products. This year, we are gearing up for the next Conference of the Parties where a large number of species will be considered for listing, including four more species of our finned friends!

Thresher Sharks

Thresher sharks are migratory pelagic sharks, meaning they spend most of their lives on the move, far out at sea. They are easy to recognize because all species of thresher sharks have one particular physical trait – a very long tail fin known as the upper caudal lobe.

There are three species of thresher sharks: bigeye, common and pelagic. Generally speaking, bigeye threshers are the largest of the three, and pelagic threshers are the smallest.

There are a number of threats facing thresher sharks, but the main reason they are up for listing consideration this fall is that all three species are under extreme pressure from overharvesting for international trade. Bigeye threshers are particularly coveted for their fins, while common threshers are taken for their meat. Other products, including skin, oil, cartilage and teeth, are also found on the international market. Because it can be so hard to tell the species apart from each other (particularly once they are processed into fins or meat), the entire genus of thresher sharks has been proposed for listing under CITES Appendix II this fall.

Of almost all pelagic sharks, the thresher shark family is at the highest risk of extinction. The bigeye thresher in particular has one of the slowest reproductive rates out of any shark species, making it incredibly vulnerable to any level of population decline. These sharks are quickly losing the battle against over-exploitation, and they desperately need international regulations under CITES.

Silky Sharks

Silky sharks get their name from their incredibly smooth skin. They are found worldwide deep in the ocean and along the coasts. One of the coolest things about silky sharks is that they are the fourth fastest shark in the world! They can swim almost 40 miles a day.

Silky sharks are specifically targeted by fishermen for their distinctive fins – identifiable by their specific shape and light grey colors. In fact, this shark is one of the top three species in demand in the global fin trade, with up to 1.5 million fins bought and sold each year from this species alone! And even though the population of silky shark is declining, the number of their fins found in international trade is only going up. Because of this increasing threat, silky sharks have been proposed for listing under CITES Appendix II, in the hopes of making the trade sustainable, instead of threatening the species’ survival.

The Next Steps – International Protection

Between now and the CITES meeting in September, we are continuing our work to gather support for these proposals. Some 27 countries including Brazil, Bahamas, Panama, and the Dominican Republic have officially co-sponsored one or both of these important shark proposals, but there is still a lot of work to do. To have the proposals adopted, we will need two-thirds of the 182 CITES member countries to support the proposals. So keep your fins crossed for sharks and stay tuned in September!

20 Responses to “Stepping up for Sharks: The Next CITES Conference of the Parties”

  1. Mary Thoma

    Sharks are nessary to the ecosystem. Please save them.

  2. GABRIELA VARGAS

    LOS TIBURONES SON LOS LIMPIADORES DEL MAR, ACABAR CON ELLOS SERÍA PROMOVER TERRIBLE CANTIDAD DE BASURA Y CONTAMINACIÓN. ANTES QUE NADA ES TAN ARBITRARIO E INJUSTO LA MATANZA DE LOS TIBURONES Y SON ACCIONES CRIMINALES E IMPERDONABLES POR EL VORAZ COMERCIO.

  3. Ellie Nourse

    The killing of these beautiful creatures is inhumane! We must stop these murderers before another wonderful species becomes extinct forever.

    • la marca monique

      Sharks must be protected. No more fins soup because after that horrible mutilation these beautiful and useful animals die in great suffering in the bottom of the seas.

  4. Kathleen Jennings

    We cannot allow silky sharks to die this way. We need them in their ecosystem. Killed for their fins? This must stop now. Thank you for saving them.

  5. Mechelle

    I wish everyone would do something to help save these sharks, as well as care for the ocean life and eco systems.

  6. Isabella Chubb

    Sharks are beautiful creatures and need to be protected

  7. Lawrence Cromwell

    We are now eating our seed corn, so to speak. By overharvesting the sharks, we are now eliminating one more source of food for the coming generations.

  8. Crystal roy

    What we do to the Earth and Ocean we do to ourselves. Easy as that. RESPECT and PROTECT!

  9. Joe Blumetti

    Man has destroyed many things on our planet . Just because we have the ability to do so does not make it permisable. The infancy of human development is displayed by what we do here, collectevly .Destruction of something you cannot reproduce is a terrible insult to Life itself.Those who continue with these practices cannot fully realize the depth of their actions or they would be afraid -very afraid ! Unavoidable-Universa lRe- balancing, will be a bitch!

  10. Joe Blumetti

    Everything evil action has grave consequence . As Guest here ,we have no wright to destroy that which we cannot Fix or Create ! Only Collective effort amongst people who care enough about the planets health( & so our own can stop this abuse . Precious balance hangs in the wing now! We owe our offspring the opportunity to live on a habitable world!

  11. Nona Ross

    My recommendation is eliminate the dealers and the buyers. Those that accept superstition instead of scientific medical advice won’t be a loss, those that prey on endangered species won’t be any kind of a loss.

  12. Lora Leland

    Humans have killed off many shark species to a tiny fraction of their original numbers. PROTECTION of ALL remaining sharks IS ESSENTIAL!!!

    Let’s make sure NO species of SHARKS go extinct!!! Remember the Passenger Pigeon once numbered in the BILLIONS! Yes BILLIONS! (Considered an inexhaustible supply by humans!!!) The Smithsonian estimated they were once from 3 BILLION to 5 BILLION constituting about 25% or more of all the birds then in North America! Humans killed them ALL!!! Extinct!!!

    Remember the American Buffalo once numbered at least 50 to 60 MILLION, where single herds spread out for many dozens or maybe hundreds of miles! Humans killed them off to the brink of extinction—down to only 541 left (out of over 50 million) when the hunts ended!!! Now “recovered” to only about 30,000 in in the wild—in isolated herds—plus some tens of thousands “privately owned” and “farmed” as livestock. Total today no more than 100,000, including “livestock”, down from 50 million!!!

    Which is the next? Tigers? Rhino? Elephant? Bats? Bees? SHARKS? There are hundreds of species of ALL kinds of animals (not to mention plants) worldwide on the brink of extinction DUE to HUMAN ARROGANCE and STUPIDITY!!! ALL need ABSOLUTE PROTECTION!!!

    Sharks of all species once numbered in the millions in all the oceans of the earth! Sharks are vilified by human ignorance, just like the wolf! (That detestable fiction movie “Jaws” should be banned!!) Plus they are murdered for an UNNECESSARY “food”, a “traditional delicacy”!!!

    ALL sharks are essential in the ocean ecosystems!!! Humans are absolutely non-essential in the oceans! On land too! Humans are the only non-essential creature on earth!!! Humans worldwide function exactly like a destructive invasive species!!! Without a doubt, humanity is the enemy of all other life on earth! Without humanity the earth might probably be in perfect ecological balance—certainly a million times better off than it is with humanity!!! It is long past time that humans’ egotistical speciesist ‘know-it-all’ anti-environmental activity and arrogant uncontrolled swarming over-population POLLUTION (the worst kind of pollution) is put under control!

    Definitely PROTECT ALL SHARKS from humanity—their enemy!!!

  13. Jossue Perez

    Asians (mostly Chinese and Japanese) are the worst predators of the seas. Western governments (United States) have to approve unforgettable sanctions and end this problem once and for all

  14. Edouard KALAKUKO KYETILE

    Conservation and preservation of species is a sustainability task for all nations of the world.
    I would like to participate in this conference, what are the conditions.

  15. Jane Powell

    Sharks really need our protection. Put their existence ahead of the greed of those who don’t care. Do everything possible to stop the massacre of these wonderful animals.

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