Parties from the UN conservation convention unanimously vote 21 species of threatened sharks and rays into the appendices of CMS
Quito, Ecuador November 9th 2014: Convention of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
Global momentum for elasmobranch conservation continued with a clean sweep at the CMS Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Quito, Ecuador yesterday, as all 21 proposed species of threatened sharks and rays were successfully listed on the appendices of CMS (CMS is an intergovernmental treaty under the United Nations Environment Program. CMS CoPs take place every 3 years).
In summary, all five sawfish species, all nine species of Mobula (devil rays), and the reef manta ray have been listed successfully on Appendix I & II, which should bring about stricter protections for these species globally. Two species of hammerheads (the great & scalloped), all three thresher shark species (the bigeye, common and pelagic), and the silky shark have been awarded CMS Appendix II listing, which should encourage increased regional cooperation for their conservation.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation is particularly delighted about the inclusion of sawfish, the world’s most endangered marine fish and of course the reef manta ray, which was overlooked in the 2011 proposal to list the giant manta ray on CMS.
“This is another tremendous success for the rays,” gushed Dr. Andrea Marshall, director of the Marine Megafauna Foundation. “These CMS listings were sorely needed to help secure increased protection and management for these incredibly threatened species which are declining at alarming rates.”
Marshall, who made a passionate intervention before the Parties on behalf of MMF and a collation of NGOs last Thursday, is the principal scientist for MMF’s Global Manta Ray Program and has been actively collecting data to support the proposal for Manta alfredi for years. She and her research team have conducted peer-reviewed scientific studies on three different continents demonstrating the highly mobile nature of this species in the lead up to CMS CoP11.
MMF scientists had already helped show that manta rays are amongst the least fecund of all shark and ray species with extremely conservative life history traits, most notably their small litter size. Low productivity species are highly vulnerable to human pressures, particularly fishing, one of the main reasons they are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN redlist of endangered species. However, to be eligible for a CMS listing, there needed to be evidence that the reef manta ray is also a migratory species in need of regional conservation efforts.
The MMF say they have been extremely concerned about the reef manta since their team documented a swift and significant 88% decline in observational sighting records of Manta alfredi at one of the most important aggregation areas for this species in the Indian Ocean. This local artisanal fishery for reef mantas in Mozambique predominantly uses resulting products domestically and operates at a much smaller scale than more organized fisheries for manta rays being monitored other parts of the globe. The implications of this study should be obvious and show the swift and devastating effects even small-scale fisheries can have on even relatively large populations of this species.
While international trade issues have been recently addressed with an Appendix II listing on CITES, domestic harvesting of Manta alfredi within range states is still an issue that threatens the survival of the species. This CMS listing will now encourage its protection within range states, prompt better management of populations and help to facilitate much needed research.
Across the world NGOs* have been voicing their opposition to unsustainable fisheries for sharks and rays, highlighting that these charismatic species would be much better used as drawcards for marine tourism, an ever-expanding and very lucrative industry that profits a wider variety of stakeholders and returns and expands the opportunity for continued profit to the countries where these species reside or frequent. Current estimates place global revenues from manta ray related tourism at close to $140 million US dollars annually.
Manta rays cannot afford to be exploited and MMF have commended Fiji for sponsoring this proposal and Ecuador, the host country, for paving the way for global manta conservation in recent years.
“This is a major win for sharks and rays,” said Dr. Marshall. “these timely listings will go a long way to ensure that these species do not go extinct in the wild.”
To find out more about the MMF visit www.marinemegafauna.org.
*In addition to the MMF, other NGOs actively supporting shark & ray proposals at CoP11 also included Shark Advocates International, Humane Society International, Project AWARE Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, PEW, Manta Trust, International Fund for Animal Welfare, & Pretoma.