Groups Call for Protection for Rays and Sharks

15 February 2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society News Release

San José, Costa Rica – A group of experts from international conservation organizations is announcing a new strategy for combating the decline of sharks and closely related rays, while warning that the rays are even more threatened and less protected than the higher profile sharks.

The call for greater inclusion of rays in conservation action plans is part of “Global Priorities for Conserving Sharks and Rays: A 2015-2025 Strategy,” released today in conjunction with a Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) meeting on shark conservation currently underway in San José, Costa Rica.

While calling on countries across the globe to take urgently needed actions to conserve and rebuild vulnerable populations of both sharks and rays, the 10-year strategy document emphasizes that, as a group, rays – including skates, stingrays, sawfishes, guitarfishes and devil rays – should receive as much attention and investment as their better known relatives, the sharks. The approximately 650 species of rays include shark-like rays such as the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish and Brazilian guitarfish.

“Overfishing due to under-management is the single most important threat to sharks and rays,” said WCS Sharks and Rays Coordinator Amie Bräutigam. “Improvements in fisheries management and expansion of conservation efforts – for rays in particular – form a major part of this new strategy.”

The global strategy was produced on the basis of extensive data analysis and synthesis by experts from Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and WWF, with technical guidance and input from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group. These organizations have partnered to implement this strategy through the Global Sharks and Rays Initiative.

“We are eager to share our global shark and ray conservation strategy with governments, and to discuss concrete steps toward the many shared goals that are ripe for action,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “Although the challenges are daunting and many questions remain, the tools and resources are already sufficient to meet CMS obligations for protecting many endangered rays and limit the catch of many heavily fished sharks.”

Along with highlighting the need for more attention to rays, the strategy emphasizes that science-based limits on shark and ray fishing and trade are urgently needed to end overfishing and ensure sustainability.

“Some shark and ray populations are capable of supporting fisheries in the long term,” said Ali Hood, the Shark Trust’s Director of Conservation. “Sustainable use is a pragmatic approach to conservation, which values the natural world, the importance of livelihoods, the cultural significance of products, and the need to minimize waste through full utilization. It also requires a genuine commitment to science-based management of populations – a key objective of this global ten-year strategy.”

Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Fisheries Programme Leader, cautioned: “Shark and ray protection measures are only as good as their actual implementation. Ensuring the traceability of fisheries products along the trade chain is essential to assess the effectiveness of any regulations and ultimately in bringing about real conservation benefits for the species affected.”

For shark and ray species listed under the Convention of Migratory Species, the authors have called on member countries to ensure that several key steps are taken in line with Convention obligations, including: establishing strict national protections for all five endangered sawfish species and all manta and devil rays; and adopting national and regional fishing limits for heavily-fished, highly migratory sharks, such as mako, hammerhead, and thresher sharks.

Demand for shark fin in Asia has long been considered the major driver for the overfishing of sharks, but the strategy highlights recent findings that market demand for shark and ray meat is also significant, and on the rise.

“The volumes of shark and ray meat traded internationally have doubled since the 1990s and are now considered as important as shark fin in driving overfishing of these animals,” noted Andy Cornish, Shark and Ray Initiative Leader of WWF International. “Driving major reductions in the global demand for shark and ray fins and meat, the vast majority of which are currently from unsustainable and untraceable sources, is an integral part of the strategy.”

The strategy also emphasizes that nearly half of the world’s shark and ray species have been classified by the IUCN as “Data Deficient,” meaning that information is insufficient to assess the health of their populations, which can further hinder conservation action.

“Our analyses for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveal a quarter of the world’s cartilaginous fishes as at risk of extinction. A major shift in effort is needed to prevent the extinction of 70 most endangered species – sawfishes, guitarfishes, wedgefishes, freshwater sharks and rays – and to clarify the conservation status and needs of the 600 Data Deficient and newly discovered species,” said IUCN SSG co-chairs Nick Dulvy and Colin Simpfendorfer.

The Global Sharks and Rays Initiative is supported in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

To access the Global Strategy, click here: www.wcs.org/global-priorities-for-conserving-sharks-and-rays

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About WWF WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. www.panda.org/news for latest news and media resources

Shark Advocates International A project of The Ocean Foundation, Shark Advocates International is dedicated to advancing science-based limits for sharks and rays, with a focus on limiting fishing and trade, strictly protecting endangered species, and strengthening bans on shark finning. www.sharkadvocates.org @SharkAdvocates.

Shark Trust The Shark Trust was established in 1997 to provide a voice for sharks in the UK. It is now a well-respected advocate for shark management and protection and is part of a global collaborative movement in shark conservation; working to safeguard shark, skate and ray populations through science, education, influence and action. www.sharktrust.org @SharkTrustUK

TRAFFIC TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is the leading non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Visit: www.traffic.org Follow: @TRAFFIC_WLTrade.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy; the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago; and generating new knowledge about critical issues.

CONTACTS:

WCS
John Delaney – +1 718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org
Stephen Sautner – +1 718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org

Shark Advocates International
Liz Morley – +1 (843) 693-5044; info@sharkadvocates.org

Shark Trust
Sophie Douglas – +44 (7414) 843264; sophie@formedia.co.uk

TRAFFIC
Richard Thomas – +44 752 6646216; Richard.thomas@traffic.org

WWF
Michael Storey, Media Officer – mstorey@wwfint.org, +41 22 364 9550


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