Sharks and rays win new protections at global wildlife summit

Source: The Guardian

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Devil rays swim slowly in groups, and are very easy to catch. Their gill plates have become popular as a supposed medicine in China. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Silky sharks, thresher sharks and devil rays all won new protections at a global wildlife summit late on Monday.

Sharks are the ocean’s top predators and play a vital role in many ecosystems but many species have been decimated by uncontrolled fishing, particularly the trade in fins which are used in soup in Asia.

The 182 nations of the Convention in the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meeting in Johannesburg, voted to put in place its first measures to control the trade in these species. The move, along with protections for five other sharks at the previous Cites summit in 2013, suggest the tide is turning for sharks.

About 100 million sharks are killed every year, driven by a $1bn annual trade, and only a fraction have had any protection. Many of the predators are now among the most threatened creatures on the planet. But the new action by Cites has doubled to 20% the proportion of sharks targeted by the fin trade that are now regulated.

All the species protected by Cites on Monday are slow to mature and produce only a small number of pups at a time, making them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation.

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